Thane Militz, a PhD candidate in the Marine Parasitology Laboratory at James Cook University said parasites severely compromise the welfare of fish farmed through aquaculture.
“For Australian fish farmers, one particular flat-worm parasite, Neobenedenia sp., has caused substantial financial loss and headache in recent years but until now there has been limited success in developing a successful treatment for this parasite,” he said.
“Previous research has demonstrated that feeding fish garlic significantly improves their immune system and we wanted to take this research a step further to examine if there was any medicinal effect against parasites.”
Mr Militz said that the research now suggests enriching the fish’s diet with garlic is key.
“The breakthrough was discovering that barramundi fed a garlic enriched diet showed considerably more resistance to the problematic flat-worm parasite compared to fish reared on a traditional diet.
“Half the barramundi given the garlic feed were completely free of infection whilst 100% of barramundi fed an un-enriched diet became infected and with substantially more parasites,” he said.
“We don’t know the exact reasons as to why, but it’s possible the parasites simply don’t like the taste of garlic fed fish or the fish’s enhanced immune system drives them away.
“Regardless of why, what we have here is an effective anti-parasitic agent that can easily be administered to fish by incorporation into the diet.”
Mr Militz said that traditional methods for treatment of fish parasites often involved harsh chemicals delivered directly into the environment where the fish are contained.
“Garlic offers an entirely natural, low cost solution to managing parasites that poses no danger to work operatives, the fish, or the environment. It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.
An additional unexpected outcome of the study was those fish offered the garlic enriched diets ate more.
“Given the strong taste associated with garlic I was initially concerned the fish would simply spit the garlic enriched feed pellets out once they got a taste, but the fish seem to love garlic!”
Contact: Thane Militz 0457 478008 or 07 4781 5737.
JCU Media: Jim O’Brien 08 4781 4822 or 0418 892449