Ben-Gurion University develops disease-fighting 'super shrimp'

The shrimp could be the key to successfully reducing poverty, helping the environment and controlling schistosomiasis outbreaks, according to BGU.

Super shrimp (photo credit: DR. ELI AFLALO)
Super shrimp
(photo credit: DR. ELI AFLALO)
Ben-Gurion University Prof. Amir Sagi and his PhD student Tom Levy say their “super shrimp” could be the key to reducing poverty, helping the environment and controlling disease outbreaks.
These super shrimp are male shrimp that have two female sex chromosomes and no male sex chromosomes, which enables them to produce only female offspring.
According to a BGU press release, the resulting all-female shrimp could be the key to success because they could “both increase aquaculture yields, as well as serve as a natural agent to prevent the spread of harmful, water-bound parasites.”
The shrimp were developed together with the Beersheba start-up Enzootic, which specializes in all-female monosex aquaculture biotechnologies.
“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,” Levy said.
BGU said that the shrimp could help reduce cases of schistosomiasis, a chronic disease caused by parasites that can lead to stomach pain, diarrhea and other related symptoms.
In July, Nature Stability published a study which found 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.”
Sagi said that “with monosex prawns at profit-maximizing densities, [they] 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,” he concluded.