French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands
Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research
BGU, Sede-Boqer 84990, Israel
Telephone: +972-8-6596818
Fax: +972-8-6596742


Acadmic Status:

Associate Professor.


Research activities

Research efforts at our laboratory address various topics related to fish diseases and aquatic animal health. We work with a wide range of ornamental and food fish species, with emphasis on ornamental fish.


Research topics and activities at the lab include:

I.   Study of infectious diseases of parasitic, bacterial and viral origin and investigating different pathological manifestations of unknown origins. Study efforts are aimed at understanding the cause of the diseases and search for solutions

II.  Development of natural, environmentally friendly treatments and natural immunostimulants that can replace the traditionally used antibiotics and chemicals.

III. Consultancy to local aquaculture farms at the Negev and Arava region. This is done through disease diagnosis and farm visits. Through this activity we come across different manifestations, diseases and other health-related problems of local importance, which are occasionally investigated as part of our research activity.


Specific reserch topics that are currently conducted:


1) Microalgal-based immunostimulants

Mortalities due to stress events and disease outbreaks routinely occur in aquaculture and lead to substantial economic losses. No treatment is available for viral diseases and for some of the parasitic and bacterial diseases affecting fish. In addition, there are no practical solutions to general stresses (such as handling, water quality fluctuations, etc.) experienced by fish during the culture period. One of the research scopes in my laboratory is to investigate the use of immunostimulants from natural sources in fish. In that context we have been examining the application of several microalgae, the arachidonic acid rich Parietochloris incisa and the astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis. We plan to consider application of additional microalgae in the future.

2) Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies

Tetrahymenosis, known also as a “Guppy killer", is a parasitic disease that is affecting primarily guppies, Poecilia reticulata, but also other fish species. The parasite, Tetrahymana sp. is a ciliate, of which several species can infect fish under certain conditions. The parasite is in vitro cultured at our lab and the infection is maintained in fish. Research efforts includes study of the pathogenesis of the disease, search for solutions, including treatments and vaccination.

3) Development of oral vaccination in fish

We have recently initiated a research project aimed to develop oral vaccination in fish, using Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies as a model.




1990 – 1993  B.Sc. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Faculty of Agriculture, Major in Animal Sciences. 

1993 – 1995  M.Sc. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. The Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Biochemistry. Advisor: Prof. Arieh Gertler.

Thesis: “The control of secretion and the physiological impacts of growth hormone in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio)".

1996 – 1998  Ph.D. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA. School of Veterinary Medicine, The Department of Pathobiology. Advisors: Prof. Phill H. Klesius, and Dr. Kenneth E. Nusbaum.

Dissertation: “Immunoglobulin, antibody production and mucus secretion in the skin of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus".


Scientific publications:


1.     Espinoza, B., Perizada, M., Ortega, E., Tarrab-Hazdai, R., Zilberg, D., and Arnon, R. 1995. Monoclonal antibodies against acetyl cholinesterase of Schistosoma manasoni: production and characterization. Hybridoma. 14(6):577-585.
2.     Fine, M., Zilberg, D., Cohen, Z., Degani, G., Moav, B., and Gertler, A. 1996. The effect of dietary protein level, water temperature and growth hormone administration on growth and metabolism in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 114(1):35-42.
3.     Zilberg, D., and Klesius, P. H. 1997. Quantification of imminoglobulin in the serum and mucus of channel catfish at different ages and following infection with Edwardsiella ictaluri. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 58:171-180.
4.     Plumb, J. A. and Zilberg, D. 1999.  The LD50 of largemouth bass iridovirus (LMBV) in juvenile largemouth bass (Micropterus salmonides) and the comparative susceptibility of striped bass (Morone saxatilis). Journal of Aquatic Animal Health. 11:246-252.
5.     Plumb, J. A. and Zilberg, D. 1999.  Survival of largemouth bass iridovirus (LMBV) in frozen fish. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health. 11:94-96.
6.     Zilberg, D., Nowak, B., Carson, J. and Wagner, T. 1999. Simple gill smear staining for diagnosis of amoebic gill disease (AGD) in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.).  Bulletin of the European Association of Fish Pathologists. 19(5):186-189.
7.     Zilberg, D., Findlay, V. L., Girling, P. and Munday, B. L. 2000. Effects of treatment with levamisole and glucans on mortality rates in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) suffering from amoebic gill disease. Bulletin of the European Association of Fish Pathologists. 20(1):15-19.
8.     Zilberg, D., Grizzle, J. M. and Plumb, J. A. 2000. Histopathology of juvenile largemouth bass infected with largemouth bass virus. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 39:143-146.
9.     Findlay, V. L., Zilberg, D. and Munday, B. L. 2000. Evaluation of levamisole as a treatment for amoebic gill disease of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. Journal of Fish Diseases. 23:193-198.
10.    Zilberg, D. and Munday, B.L. 2000. Pathology of experimental amoebic gill disease in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) and the effect of pre-maintenance in seawater. Journal of Fish Diseases. 23:401-407.
11.    Douglas-Helders, M., Nowak, B., Zilberg, D. and Carson, J. 2000. Survival of Paramoeba pemaquidensis on dead salmon: implication of management of cage hygiene. Bulletin of the European Association of Fish Pathologists. 20(3):167-169.
12.    Zilberg, D., Gross, A. and Munday, B.L. 2000. Production of salmonid amoebic gill disease by exposure to Paramoeba sp. harvested from the gills of infected fish. Journal of Fish Diseases. 24:181-183.
13.    Zilberg, D. and Munday, B.L. 2001. Responses of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. to Paramoeba antigens administered by a variety of routes. Journal of Fish Diseases. 24:181-183.
14.    Zilberg, D. and Munday B.L. 2001. The effect of anti-Paramoeba antibodies on Paramoeba sp., the causative agent of amoebic gill disease. Journal of Fish Diseases. 24:345-350.
15.    Munday, B. L., Zilberg, D. and Findlay, V. L. 2001. Gill disease of marine fish caused by infection with Neoparamoeba pemaquidensis – a review article. Journal of Fish Diseases. 24:497-507.
16.    Douglas-Helders, G.M., O'Brien, D.P., McCorkell, B.E., Zilberg, D., Gross, A. Carson, J. and Nowak, B.F.  2003.  Temporal and spatial distribution of Paramoeba sp. in the water column- a pilot study.  Journal of Fish Diseases. 26:231-240.
17.    Munday, B.L. and Zilberg, D. 2003. Efficacy of and toxicity associated with the use of levamisole in seawater to treat amoebic gill disease. Bulletin of the European Association of Fish Pathologists. 23:3-5.
18.    Gross, A., Nemirovsky, A., Zilberg, D., Khaimov, A., Brenner, A., Snir, E., Ronen, Z. and Nejidat, A. 2003. Soil nitrifying enrichments as biofilter starters in intensive re-circulating saline water aquaculture, Aquaculture. 223:51-62.
19.    Zilberg, D., Ofir, R., Rabinski, T. and Diamant, A. 2004. Morphological and genetic characterization of swimbladder non-inflation in angelfish Pterophyllum scalare (Cichlidae). Aquaculture. 230:13-27.
20.    Gross, A., Abutbul, S. and Zilberg, D. 2004. Acute and chronic effect of nitrite to shrimps, Litopenaeus vannamei, at low salinity water. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society. 35:315-321.
21.    Abutbul, S., Golan-Goldhirsh, A., Barazani, O. and Zilberg, D. 2004. The use of Rosmarinus officinalis as a treatment against streptococcal disease in tilapia. Aquaculture. 238:97-105.
22.    Zilberg, D. 2005. Amoebic gill disease of marine fish caused by Neoparamoeba pemaquidensis – a mini paper. Acta Zoologica Sinica. 51:554-556.
23.    Abutbul, S., Golan-Goldhirsh, A., Barazani, O., Ofir, R. and Zilberg, D. 2005. Screening of desert plants :against bacterial pathogens of fish. Bamidgeh. 57:71-80.
24.    Pimenta-Leibowitz, M., Ariav, R. and Zilberg, D. 2005. Environmental and physiological conditions affecting Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Journal of Fish Diseases. 28:539-247.
25.    Zilberg, D., and Sinai, T. 2006. Optimization and validation of a colorimetric assay for Tetrahymena sp. Survival. Research in Microbiology. 157(4):335-359.
26.    Khozin-Goldberg, I., Cohen, Z., Pimenta-Leibowitz, M., Nechev, J. and Zilberg, D. 2006. Feeding with arachidonic acid-rich triacylglycerols from the microalgae Parietochloris incisa increased recovery of guppies from infection with Tetrahymena sp. Aquaculture, 255:142-150.
27.    Gross, A., Nemirovsky, A., Zilberg, D. and Nejidat., A. 2006. Soil nitrifying enrichments for enhancement of biofiltration systems in intensive recirculating saline water aquaculture. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society. 35(3):315-321.
28.    Perlberg, S. T, Diamant, A., Ofir, R. and Zilberg, D. 2008. Characterization of swimbladder non inflation (SBN) in angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare L., and the effect of exposure to methylene blue. Journal of fish Diseases, 31:215-228.
29.    Sanabria, C. Diamant, A., and Zilberg, D. 2009. Effects of commonly used disinfectants and temperature on swim bladder non-inflation in freshwater angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare (Lichtenstein). Aquaculture, 292:158-165.
30.    Pimenta Leibowitz, M. and Zilberg, D. 2009. Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies (Poecilia reticulata): parasite characterization and pathology of infected fish. Journal of fish Diseases, 10:845-855.
31.    Chettri, J.K., Pimenta Leibowitz, M., Ofir, R. and Zilberg, D. 2009. Protective immunization against Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Fish and Shellfish Immunology, 27:302-308.
32.    Pimenta Leibowitz, M., Ofir, R., Golan-Goldhirsh, A. and Zilberg, D. 2009. Cysteine proteases and acid phosphatases contribute to Tetrahymena spp. pathogenicity in guppies, Poecilia reticulate. Veterinary Parasitology, 161:21-26.
33.    Dagar, A., Zilberg, D., Cohen, Z., Boussiba, S. and Khozin-Goldberg,  I. 2010. Short-term dietary supplementation with the microalga Parietochloris incisa enhances stress resistance in guppies (Poecilia reticulate). Aquaculture Research, 41:267-277.
34.    Zilberg, D., Tal, A., Froyman, N., Abutbul, S., Dudai, N. and Golan-Goldhirsh, A. 2010. Dried leaves of Rosmarinus officinalis as a treatment for streptococcosis in tilapia. J. Fish Dis. 33:361-369.
35.    Pimenta Leibowitz, M., Kumar Chettri, J., Ofir, R., and Zilberg, D. 2010. Treatment development for systemic Tetrahymena sp. infection in guppies, Poecilia reticulata. J. Fish Dis. 33:473-480
36.    Etzion, A., Gillor, O., Harpaz, S., Pasternak, Z. and Zilberg, D. 2011. Study of dietary supplementation with probiotic bacteria in Barrmundi, Lates calcarifer (Bloch, 1790): effect on immune function and resistance to bacterial infection. Istraeli Journal of Aquaculture, Bamidgeh. 63:592-561.
37.    Nath, P.R., Khozin-Goldberg, I., Cohen, Z., Boussiba, S. and Zilberg, D. 2012. Dietary supplementation with the microalgae Parietochloris incisa increases survival and stress resistance in guppy (Poecilia reticulata) fry. Aquaculture Nutrition.  18:167-180.
38.    Zilberg, D., Jones, B.J., Burger, M.A.A., Nicholls, P.K., Nolan, D., Crockford, M. and  Stephens, F. 2012. New pathological condition in cultured mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus): Histopathological, ultrastructural and molecular studies. Disease of Aquatic Organisms. 100:219-230.



Book chapters

Zilberg, D. and Munday, B. L. 2006. Chapter 1: Phylum Amoebozoa. In: P. T. K. Woo (ed.) Fish Diseases and Disorders, Volume 3: viral, bacterial and fungal infections. CABI Publishing. Pp. 1-15.