Proposed Guidelines for Reporting Pathogen Challenge Tests in Shrimp

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By Milthon Lujan

Disease outbreaks are the consequence of interactions between the susceptible host (shrimp), a virulent pathogen and conducive environmental conditions of the production system. Source: Arbon et al., (2023), Rev Aquac.
Disease outbreaks are the consequence of interactions between the susceptible host (shrimp), a virulent pathogen and conducive environmental conditions of the production system. Source: Arbon et al., (2023), Rev Aquac.

The shrimp industry has witnessed significant strides in disease management, with contemporary strategies, such as the “systems” approach, playing a pivotal role.

The success of these strategies relies on a profound understanding of the intricate relationships among the host (shrimp), the pathogen (virus), and the environment that foster disease development.

Powerful Tools: Pathogen Challenge Experiments (PCE)

Pathogen Challenge Experiments (PCE) serve as a powerful tool to unravel these complexities. However, a critical issue impedes the progress of this research: the lack of accurately reported experimental details in published PCEs. This limitation undermines scientific transparency, reproducibility, and the potential for innovative advances in shrimp disease management.

An article published by researchers from James Cook University identifies and discusses key factors related to the host (shrimp), pathogen (virus), and the environment that must be carefully considered during the design and publication of pathogen challenge tests.

Importance of Pathogen Challenge Experiments

Pathogen Challenge Experiments serve as a cornerstone in researching the conditions and interactions among shrimp, viruses, and the environment that contribute to disease outbreaks. These experiments provide a controlled environment to simulate real-world scenarios, allowing researchers to observe and analyze the dynamics of interactions between shrimp and viruses. However, their effectiveness depends on the precision and integrity of the reported experimental details.

“Generally, disease research and pathogen challenge experiments (PCE) are the primary means to develop knowledge about diseases and their associated or causal drivers,” report the researchers.

Identifying Key Factors: Host, Pathogen, and Environment

To address deficiencies in current reporting practices, this review emphasizes the importance of considering specific factors related to the host, the pathogen, and the environment during the design and publication of PCEs.

According to the study authors, “Considering the difficulty of evaluating conditions that drive diseases in situ, due to the complexity of production systems, a complementary or alternative strategy is required for more robust research.”

Factors related to the host include shrimp characteristics, pathogen factors encompass virus details, and environmental factors cover the conditions under which experiments are conducted. A comprehensive understanding of these factors is crucial for accurate interpretation and precise application of PCE findings.

Current State Evaluation: A Disturbing Lack of Experimental Details

The review evaluated 186 viral PCEs in tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) and discovered a concerning lack of experimental details in the published studies. This deficiency hampers the progress of research on shrimp disease management and compromises the utility of PCE findings.

In this regard, scientists emphasize that “to maximize the value of PCE studies for shrimp disease management, guidelines with specificity for shrimp PCEs are needed from a similar principle.”

To address this issue, the article proposes the Shrimp PCE Reporting Guidelines (SPERG).

Shrimp PCE Reporting Guidelines (SPERG)

SPERG is a comprehensive checklist designed to standardize the reporting of experimental details in published PCEs. By adopting SPERG, researchers can ensure the inclusion of essential information related to shrimp, viruses, and environmental conditions, enhancing the transparency and reproducibility of their work.

The guidelines enable researchers, reviewers, and readers to critically assess the internal and external validity of PCEs, facilitating a more comprehensive evaluation and better applicability of findings in contemporary disease management.

The proposed guide takes the form of a checklist for the minimum reportable information in the publication of viral PCEs in shrimp and is referred to as “Shrimp PCE Reporting Guidelines (SPERG).”


In conclusion, the success of disease management strategies in shrimp aquaculture depends on solid knowledge derived from transparent and well-documented research.

The Shrimp PCE Reporting Guidelines (SPERG) provide a roadmap for researchers to improve the quality of published PCEs and ultimately contribute to the advancement of shrimp disease management strategies.

By promoting transparency and standardization, SPERG empowers the scientific community to leverage existing knowledge, fostering a more resilient and sustainable future for shrimp aquaculture.

The study was funded by the Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) and the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA).

P. M. Arbon
JCU AquaPATH detection laboratory
James Cook University
Townsville, Building 32, 1 James Cook Drive
Douglas QLD 4811, Australia.
Email: phoebe.arbon@jcu.edu.au

Reference (open access)
Arbon, PM, Andrade Martinez, M, Jerry, DR, Condon, K. Towards a ‘systems’ approach for viral challenge experiments in shrimp: Reporting guidelines for publication. Rev Aquac. 2023; 1-19. doi:10.1111/raq.12877

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