TO PREVENT widespread purge of shrimp farms caused by a virus found in crustaceans, a group of UST researchers teamed up with the Department of Science and Technology in developing an early detection kit.

Marybeth Maningas, a resident of the UST Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences, led there search on the development of the Juan Amplification Detection Kit (JAmp), a diagnostic tool for the detection of the White Spot Syndrome virus in shrimps.

Citing Timothy William Flegel and his group, Maningas said the virus has gravely affected the global shrimp industry, with production losses at an estimated one billion dollars from the virus alone. Besides shrimps, the marine virus also infects other crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, and barnacles.

Aquatic threat

Infected crustaceans show symptoms like numerous white spots on their carapace and pink to red discolorations. The virus has been detected in the Philippines since the 2000s which consequently led to the rapid mortality of shrimps within two to 10 days after infection.

Maningas, who is also a professor at the College of Science, said the Philippines was once a top producer of shrimps in the world but has been declining in product exports due to the viral infection.

“According to an article, the country has lost about 40 to 60-percent of its shrimp production,” she said. “That amounts to approximately 120 to 180-million dollars of decline in revenue from having product exports of approximately 300-million dollars during its prime,” she added, citing data from the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles.

Collaboration

Maningas’ team is a composed of research assistants Pocholo Arabit, Sharlaine Orense, Joselito Tabardillo, Jr. and Amalea Nicolasora, and graduate student Benedict Maralit. They receive funding from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development.

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The research was also a collaborative work with the Electrical Engineering Department of the Faculty of Engineering for the development of a machine that is utilized by the kit for the detection of the virus. The machine was invented by research staff Patrick Ellis Go and Erica Ocampo, with Rolando Gonzales as the research technician.

Christopher Caipang and Valeriano Corre, Jr. of the Temasek Polytechnic University and University of the Philippines-Visayas, respectively, serve as consultants.

Maningas’ team designed the kit to be “user-friendly,” enabling anyone to use it even those who have no prior training or scientific background.

“We developed the kit in such a way that it can be used by farmers and any ordinary person,” Maningas said. “The diagnostic kit can [also] be utilized for other organisms as long as [the virus] is believed to be present.”

After four years of research and development of the kit, the research team traveled to different provinces such as Davao, Cebu, General Santos, Bohol and Iloilo for the pilot testing.

“After the pilot testing, we hope that the kit catches the attention of the private sector for commercialization,” Maningas said.

The team applied for the patent of the kit and is expecting the result later this year.

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