Could single-sex prawns serve
the triple goal of alleviating poverty, protecting the environment and reducing
disease? BGU researchers Prof. Amir
Sagi, who also serves as a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN)
and his PhD student Tom
Levy, say they may just have developed a monosex prawn that
could make the winning trifecta possible.
Above: The super shrimp (Photo Credit: Dr. Eli Aflalo)
In a groundbreaking study published last week in Scientific
Reports, part of the Nature
group, a research group headed by Prof. Sagi outline the development of male
Macrobrachium rosenbergii with two female sex chromosomes but that lack the
masculine sex chromosome - a so-called “super shrimp” that only produces female
offspring. The emergence of an all-female population, developed together with
the R&D team of Enzootic, a startup company specializing in all-female
monosex aquaculture biotechnologies, could both increase aquaculture yields as
well as serve as a natural agent to prevent the spread of harmful, water-bound
“We were able to achieve the monosex population without the use of hormones or
genetic modifications and thus address both agricultural considerations, which
favors monosex populations and ecological concerns. Prawns serve as efficient
biocontrol agents against parasite carrying snails and since we can now use
monosex prawns, which do not reproduce, it reduces the hazard of prawns
becoming an invasive species" says Levy.
BGU partners with the "Espoir Pour La Santé" (EPLS) Biomedical Research Centre, a non-profit Senegalese medical research organization, which focuses its research on tropical infectious diseases that occur frequently in the sub-Saharan countries, including bilharzia and malaria.
The publication comes on the heels of a study published in July in Nature
Sustainability showing that freshwater prawn species serve as a
biocontrol agent by preying on aquatic snail species that serve as intermediate
hosts of the parasite that causes schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa. In
this study Prof. Sagi
and Dr. Amit Savaya
of BGU joined forces with a large team of researchers around the world headed
by Prof. Giulio De Leo
of Stanford University to outline control strategies drawing on both prawn
aquaculture to reduce intermediate host snail populations and mass drug
administration to treat infected individuals. Integrating both methods is found
to be superior to either one alone.
“With monosex prawns at profit-maximizing densities, the prawns substantially
reduce intermediate host snail populations and aid schistosomiasis control
efforts. Integrated aquaculture-based interventions can be a win–win strategy
in terms of health and sustainable development in schistosomiasis endemic
regions of the world,” says Prof. Sagi.
Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms that
can result in severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. In
women, urogenital schistosomiasis may present with genital lesions, vaginal
bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, and nodules in the vulva. In men,
urogenital schistosomiasis can induce pathology of the seminal vesicles,
prostate, and other organs.
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 220.8 million people each
year require preventive treatment for the disease.