Thesis: Development and evaluation of optimised diagnostic capabilities for Australian Perkinsus spp. isolates for sampling and testing based on estimates of sensitivity and specificity
In WA abalone populations, several parasites have been reported. The impact of some of these parasites on their host is unknown and they still need to be characterised. Among them, recent investigations in green lip abalone Haliotis laevigata wild populations in WA have revealed up to 80% prevalence of Perkinsus olseni, a parasite notifiable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Perkinsus spp. have caused significant mortalities in commercially important mollusc species worldwide. This parasite has been associated with mass mortality events and the following collapse of black lip abalone Haliotis rubra fisheries in New South Wales (NSW) since the early 1900’s. As the industry progressively explore live trade and develop new market access, P. olseni infections can prove to be a hurdle for authorities that have previously reported detections of Perkinsus. sp.
My project aims to identify the parasites present in abalones from WA, determine their impact on the host as well as their interactions. It will also elaborate new diagnostic methods for these parasites and develop a rapid and reliable detection method using flow-cytometry and an antibody specific to Perkins olseni. Taken together, these new methods will lead to a better insight into the prevalence and intensity of P. olseni infections, which will contribute to the implementation of adequate management measures. A broad range of techniques will be used, from molecular biology (sequencing, next-generation sequencing, development of qPCR tests for significant parasites), to immunology and flow-cytometry.
Why my research is important
Abalones (from the family Haliotidae) are an economically important species of molluscs, ranking fourth nationally in Australia and worth $190 million. In Western Australia (WA), wild caught and farmed abalone industries are key fisheries. With the development of new sea ranching sites, this industry sector has a strong potential for expanding. To ensure the sustainability of that fishery, the health of abalones requires constant surveillance and monitoring.
Effective and adequate detection tools are essential to study P. olseni dynamics and its related risk factors. Those detection tools should be able to accurately assess the intensity of infection in an individual abalone, as well as the prevalence of infection in a large population. Recent investigations found that the current detection methods for P. olseni lack consistency and the industry has highlighted the need for a reliable, fast and specific protocol to detect this parasite in abalone tissues, at the species level, as well as in haemolymph and water samples.