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The effect of vitamin C on fish health

The effect of vitamin C on fish health

DSM Nutritional Products

Viviane Verlhac and Jacques Gabaudan Centre for Research in Animal Nutrition, Société Chimique Roche, BP 170, 68305 Saint-Louis Cedex, France

The effect of vitamin C on Fish Health

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The goals of the aquaculture industry are to optimize growth and to produce high-quality fish. As in all farming, the outbreak of diseases in fish farming can be a major concern. The high susceptibility of fish to stress and the rapid spread of diseases in water have forced aquaculturists to concentrate their efforts on maintaining their fish in good health in order to achieve sustainable economic performances.

Growing healthy fish requires them to be able to develop strong defence mechanisms against pathogen invasion. These are the non-specific and the specific immune response. The non-specific immune response is more important in fish than it is in mammals. Improving the immune response leads to a better vaccination efficiency. Vaccines induce a specific immune response and an increased capacity to kill the pathogens by non-specific defence mechanisms.

Several years ago, during the early development of the salmon industry, antibiotics were commonly used in the treatment of diseases. However, the consumption of drugs has progressively been reduced owing in part to environmental and regulatory concerns and in part to increased resistance of pathogens. Furthermore, the curative effect of oral drugs is minimised by the fact that diseased fish frequently do not feed. The eradication of major diseases by improved husbandry and vaccination has reduced mortality levels considerably. Although some efficient vaccines against major diseases of finfish are available today, others need to be improved in terms of efficiency and duration of protection. Vaccines against lethal diseases such as VHS and BKD have not yet been developed.

Intensively raised fish may be exposed to stressful situations which often result in a depressed immune status. Good management practices reduce stress and therefore help to maintain healthy animals. However, since not all stressing situations can be avoided, fish with enhanced defence mechanisms will be better prepared to combat the negative effects of stress. The nutritional quality of the feed is a major factor in sustaining healthy fish. It has been shown that the immune system can be enhanced by the use of immunomodulators such as antioxidant vitamins, carotenoids and other feed additives. The combination of good management, vaccination and nutritional prophylaxis will insure higher survival rates and improve growth in intensive farming systems (Figure 1).

This publication highlights the importance of vitamin C as an immunomodulator and a key nutritional element in modern fish farming in promoting optimal survival and performance.

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