Merck Animal Health Obtains First Approval for AQUAVAC Strep Sa in Asia-Pacific

BOXMEER (The Netherlands), July 31, 2012 — Indonesia, the world’s third largest producer of farmed tilapia, now has a new tool available for managing streptococcosis, a highly prevalent bacterial disease that can cause high levels of mortality and sharp decreases in fish performance.

Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada) has obtained approval from Indonesian authorities to begin marketing AQUAVAC® Strep Sa, an inactivated vaccine that aids in the protection against Streptococcus agalactiae infections in tilapia and other susceptible fish.

AQUAVAC Strep Sa, the world’s first oil-adjuvanted vaccine for tilapia, is administered intraperitonealy as a single-injection dose to fish weighing no less than 15 grams. Vaccinated fish develop protection within 3 weeks of injection and laboratory challenge studies have demonstrated that this protection lasts for at least 30 weeks.

“AQUAVAC Strep Sa represents a major breakthrough that will help Indonesia’s tilapia producers reduce losses from this disease while helping to improve the long-term sustainability of Indonesia’s fish farms,” said Neil Wendover, technical director for warmwater aquatic species at Merck Animal Health. He noted that the vaccine — the first of its kind in the industry — was registered successfully in Brazil in late 2011 and subsequently in several Central American countries.

“The tilapia industry is quickly adopting vaccination as a disease management tool because it fits with its strategy to produce healthy, profitable, high-quality fish for local and export markets,” Wendover added, noting that vaccinated fish often show significant performance improvements when compared to unvaccinated controls. Merck Animal Health is pursuing registrations for AQUAVAC Strep Sa in other major tilapia markets.

Significant losses
S. agalactiae is a bacterial disease that strikes tilapia at all stages of the production cycle, but disease outbreaks late in the grow-out period are the most economically significant because, at that point, tilapia farms have already made considerable investments in feed, energy and other production inputs.

According to Wendover, streptococcus thrives at temperatures from 28-32°C. Fish stressors such as rapid increase in temperatures, fluctuating water quality and high competition and stocking densities have made fish more susceptible to the disease. Streptococcosis typically causes bulging eyes and a swollen belly. Infected fish swim in an erratic circular motion and often experience high mortality. “If left uncontrolled, S. agalactiae Biotype II infection could cause mortality rates of up to 90 percent in pre-market age fish,” Wendover said. “The disease also results in significant declines in feed conversion and growth in tilapia. Surviving infected fish may also be damaged and produce lower quality and lower yielding fillets.”

Most prevalent isolate
Epidemiological surveys conducted by Merck Animal Health in major tilapia-producing markets have collected over 1,000 bacterial isolates from tilapia reared at 74 sites in 14 countries.

“Streptococcal species were the dominant bacterial pathogens, accounting for more than half of all bacteria identified. S. agalactiae was more prevalent than S. iniae,” reported Siow Foong Chang, site manager at Merck Animal Health’s aquaculture research facility in Singapore. Of the S. agalactiae isolates collected globally, Biotype II accounted for 56 percent compared to 26 percent for Biotype I. “These data showed an unexpected geographical segregation of the biotypes, with S. agalactiae Biotype II being the only strain isolated from Indonesia and Latin America,” he added.

Merck Animal health offers customers a strain identification service to ensure they are choosing the correct vaccine. AQUAVAC Strep Sa has been shown both by the strain survey and cross-protection studies to be the vaccine to use in Indonesia and Latin America. For more information about AQUAVAC Strep Sa and other aquatic health products, go to, email or contact your local Merck Animal Health representative.