French firm Virbac to make and sell kit used to detect shrimp white spot

In a major boost for the research capabilities of the College of Fisheries in Mangalore city, its patent on a shrimp disease testing kit will be sold to a private multinational company for mass distribution.

The RapiDot Kit, which has been in development since 2000 and in field trial stage for the past seven years, has been bought by Virbac Animal Health Care Limited., a French company involved in animal and fish healthcare, said K.M. Shankar, Dean, College of Fisheries, who developed the test.

The test can be used as an early detection tool of the shrimp white spot virus that causes a loss of nearly Rs. 500 crore annually to shrimp culture industry in the country, he said. Within five minutes of placing the sample on the cassette of the kit, the disease can be detected.

“Each mother shrimp (which lays up to 5,00,000 eggs and sustains the farm) costs Rs. 10,000. So now, the farmer can test it immediately before buying it. Or, if the farmer detects the virus early, he can discard the shrimp before the virus spreads through his farm,” said Mr. Shankar.

The diagnostic kit was based on monoclonal antibody activity (preparing clones of the antibody or cells that are released by the body when the virus enters), and is considered to be a pioneering work, he said. “It is between 100 and 1000 times more sensitive, while also being 20 times cheaper than the existing test for it,” he said, and added that the current test developed by the Japanese costs Rs. 400.

While the kit is being sold at Rs. 40 by the university now, mass manufacture by the private company would ensure the cost is reduced while the distribution network to farmers is increased. “It will ultimately benefit the farmer,” said Mr. Shankar.

S. Ayyappan, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, will transfer the technology at a function on Saturday at the college.

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