Diagnostic competence in the identification of Vibrio species is of growing concern with the expansion and diversification of aquaculture in Australia. The urgent need to improve diagnostic capacity has been identified as an essential goal in the SCFA Research Priorities for Australian Fisheries & Aquaculture. Under AQUAPLAN improved diagnostic capacity in aquatic animal diseases was also identified as a major national goal under Projects 3.1 Surveillance & Monitoring, 4.2.9 Diagnostic Resources, 6.2.3 Development of New Diagnostic Tests. The National Workshop on Aquatic Animal Health: Technical Issues (FHMC 1999) identified improved diagnostic capacity for Vibrio species as a matter of priority. More recently, Aquatic Animal Industry Stakeholders nominated the identification of Vibrios as a priority need for funding under the Federal Government Budget Initiative, 'Building A National Approach To Animal And Plant Health' (AQUAPLAN, Business Group (FHMC Sub-Committee, Steering Committee of the FRDC Aquatic Animal Health Sub-Program).
Of major concern is the drive to establish health surveillance programs for aquatic animals. A surveillance program already exists for salmonids in Tasmania and similar programs for abalone in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have been identified as a priority need by the FRDC Abalone sub-programme. Similarly, a health surveillance program has been proposed for rock lobster. A major weakness however of these schemes is the lack of diagnostic capacity in veterinary laboratories servicing these health programs (Anon 1999). Given that Vibrio species form over 60% of the bacterial flora associated with these major aquaculture species the usefulness of these proposed surveillance schemes is severely limited.
Competence in identification of Vibrio species is an essential pre-requisite in any surveillance program. It provides the basis to assess the significance of findings, is a means of monitoring populations for the emergence of specific pathogens and underpins successful disease management strategies through the selection of appropriate antibiotics, probiotics or vaccines.
The difficulties identifying Vibrio species were highlighted through a National Fish Disease Bacteriology Workshop (FRDC 00/149). All participating laboratories confirmed the low success rate identifying Vibrio species isolated from aquatic animals and found most identification systems either inefficient, cumbersome or unreliable. Participants endorsed strongly the need to improve diagnostic capacity for Vibrio species.
Anon (1999) Gap Analysis of Research for Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture. Report for the Research Committee, Standing Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture
FHMC (1999) Report of the Workshop on Aquatic Animal Health: Technical Issues. 7-9 December 1998, Attwood, Victoria