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Studies on the effect of temperature and pH on the inactivation of fish viral and bacterial pathogens


P F Dixon, CEFAS Weymouth Laboratory, Barrack Road, The Nothe, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UB, UK (e-mail:


Disposal of fish by-products in the European Community must comply with Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 which categorizes animal by-products according to risk, and specifies methods of disposal of by-products according to that risk. There is provision under the regulation for composting or ensiling to be used for by-products from aquatic animals. Biosecurity considerations require knowledge of the parameters of time and temperature, or time and pH, required to inactivate any fish pathogens that may be present. To provide those data, we undertook laboratory studies on the inactivation of a number of fish pathogenic viruses and bacteria at 60 °C, pH 4.0 and pH 12.0 as a preliminary to conducting subsequent trials with the most resistant viruses and bacteria in fish tissues. The most resistant bacterium to 60 °C, pH 4.0 as well as pH 12.0 was Lactococcus garvieae. Its concentration was reduced to the level of sensitivity of the test after 24–48 h exposure to 60 °C, but it survived for at least 7 days at pH 4.0 and 14 days at pH 12.0. The most resistant virus to 60 °C was infectious pancreatic necrosis virus, and to pH 12.0 was infectious salmon anaemia virus. The majority of the viruses tested survived exposure to pH 4.0 for up to 28 days. The results suggest that the process of acid ensiling alone is not an effective method for the inactivation of many viral and bacterial pathogens, and fish by-products would need further treatment by a method approved under the regulation following ensiling, whereas alkaline or heat treatment are likely to provide an increased degree of biosecurity for on-farm processing of mortalities.

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