Aquatic Animal Health and Biosecurity Subprogram: Comparative pathogenicity of exotic acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease (AHPND) and the presumptive bacterial hepatopancreatitis detected in farmed Penaeus monodon in Queensland

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CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory

Principal Investigator:

Nick Moody

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Australian prawn production, forecast at 24 kilotonnes in 2014/15, is valued at >$310 million. The prawn fishery is an important natural resource that supports a substantial export industry. Prawn aquaculture in northern Australia accounts for approximately 20% of the total volume of Australian production. The new, emerging disease syndrome, characterised by hepatopancreatitis and mortalities in farmed P monodon, was first reported in north Queensland in early 2015. The disease was again detected in late 2015 and emerged in central Queensland in early 2016. The disease in two prawn farming regions in Queensland is ongoing. While there are similarities with the emerging disease in central and north Queensland with exotic AHPND, the following important information is still unknown: 1) what is the variability (if any) in host bacterial strains associated with the AHPND toxin genes in diseased prawns in Queensland, particularly between the two different regions currently affected? 2) what is the pathogenicity of Australian bacterial isolates containing the AHPND toxin genes to P. monodon and P merguiensis how does this compare to disease caused by exotic AHPND isolates? 3) the preliminary WGS analysis needs to be repeated/confirmed using a more stringent and advanced platform. This project will characterise the causative agent(s) and hepatopancreatitis disease in Australian farmed P. monodon. This information is critical for the prawn industry, policy-makers and regulators in order to respond to the disease. The Project aligns with Key Research Area 6.2.1 of the FRDC AAHS R&D Plan “Knowledge about new and emerging infectious diseases”.


1. Compare the pathogenicity of exotic AHPND and the presumptive bacterial hepatopancreatitis in Penaeus monodon and P. merguensis.

2. Compare the pathology caused by exotic AHPND and the presumptive bacterial hepatopancreatitis in Penaeus monodon and P. merguensis.

3. Determine the whole genome sequence of the Vibrio harveyi strain from farmed Penaeus monodon and P. merguensis presumptive bacterial hepatopancreatitis.

4. Optimise, evaluate through inter-laboratory testing and then implement improved diagnostic tests for the Pir toxin gene.