A team at Auburn University used genetic engineering to add the alligator cathelicidin gene to catfish, which increased the catfish’s health and reduced disease risk. This groundbreaking research could have significant implications for the future of livestock production and could help farmers achieve higher yields.
The alligator cathelicidin gene was added to the catfish using the genome-editing technique CRISPR, which boosts the catfish’s disease resistance compared to wild catfish. Microcidins, found in the gut, are antimicrobial peptides that help organisms fight disease. The researchers noted that the modified catfish had “two to five times higher” survival rates.
However, because the researchers added cathelicidin to the reproductive hormone gene, it also reduced the catfish’s fertility. This is thought to be important to prevent genetic contamination of wild catfish hybrids.
Although there is still some uncertainty about the use of CRISPR technology in fish, researchers hope that alligator gene editing and catfish can be used in tandem with other breeding techniques to help farmers achieve higher yields in livestock production.
In 2021, the United States is expected to produce an estimated 140,000 tons of live catfish. Catfish also account for more than 50 percent of the national demand for farmed fish. However, the process of caring for this creature is resource-intensive. Due to the lack of space in the farms where catfish are raised, diseases often spread among catfish. About 45% of fish species die from infectious diseases. Fish in general are also becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
While consumers may be uneasy about the idea of their catfish sharing genetic resources with American alligators, the researchers assured that the meat from the hybrid fish is completely safe.
In conclusion, the addition of the alligator cathelicidin gene to catfish through genetic engineering is a major breakthrough in the field of livestock production. It has the potential to significantly reduce disease risk in catfish and increase survival rates. Although there is still some uncertainty about the long-term implications of this research, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about livestock production and improve the sustainability of our food systems.