Project overview

Title: Advanced Tools and Research Strategies for Parasite Control in European farmed fish (ParaFishControl)
Programme: Horizon 2020 (H2020-SFS-10a-2014)
Instrument: Research and Innovation Action
Duration: April 2015 – March 2020 (60 months)
Consortium: 29 partners from 13 countries
Coordinator: Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Spain

While bacterial and viral diseases of cultured finfish have been extensively studied and have witnessed substantial advances in their control, parasitic diseases have received less attention and research funding. Nevertheless, disease prevention and management are essential for the sustainability of the European aquaculture industry. The diversity of species and farming practices throughout Europe involves a significant number of threats related to a large variety of pathogens that hamper production and require specific preventive and curative practices and tools ensuring a high level of biosecurity of aquaculture production and related seafood products.

Among other disease-related threats, parasites and related infections can cause significant damages to farmed fish species and can result in poor growth performance, impaired welfare, and high mortality rates with significant consequences in terms of production and economic performance. 

ParaFishControl is an EU H2020-funded project that, within the aforementioned framework, aims at increasing the sustainability and competitiveness of the European aquaculture industry by improving our understanding of fish-parasite interactions and by developing innovative solutions and tools for the prevention, control and mitigation of the most harmful parasitic species affecting the main European farmed fish species.


Project objectives

The project addresses the most harmful parasitic species affecting either one or more of these fish hosts.

To attain its overall goal, ParaFishControl will pursue the following objectives:

At the fundamental scientific level:

  • To generate new aquaculture-relevant scientific knowledge concerning key fish parasites. Areas of knowledge gain will include life-cycles and the genomic, biochemical, physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in immune-evasion, host invasion, virulence and transmission. This will facilitate the development and design of targeted intervention strategies.
  • To identify key elements of the host immune response, including patterns of gene/protein expression, and downstream effects on parasites. This will lead to the development of new immune-modulatory strategies and drug designs.
  • To investigate the epidemiology of parasites that show reciprocal movements between farmed and wild fish host populations.

At the applied technological and industrial level:

  • To develop novel prophylactic tools, including vaccines, feed additives, biological controls and management interventions at the farm level.
  • To provide advanced tools for the identification and quantification of parasites causing relevant diseases, which can detect and discriminate between parasite-specific molecules associated with certain biological processes (e.g. feeding, reproduction, cell division) and stages (e.g. strains or species, virulent phenotypes).
  • To develop and validate cost-effective, specific and sensitive diagnostic tools for the most relevant parasitic diseases.
  • To provide advanced or alternative treatments for parasitic diseases.
  • To establish best practices for optimising the efficiency of environmentally-friendly treatment methods to mitigate disease outcomes and to minimise the threat of existing and emerging parasitoses.
  • To leverage the existing capabilities of the EU’s new marine parasite BioBank as a unique central hub for the collection, storage and distribution of farmed fish parasite samples and supporting metadata arising from project activities.
  • To assess the risk factors involved in the emergence, transmission and pathogenesis of parasitic diseases in farmed fish and to provide strategies to minimise their impact on farmed stocks.
  • To map the zoonotic risks associated with helminth parasites in fish and to provide a catalogue of good husbandry practices to obtain safe fish products strengthening the competitiveness and the image of EU aquaculture producers.
  • To provide manuals of best practice for hands-on diagnosis and integrated pest management of parasitic diseases, for producers, diagnostic laboratories, veterinary practitioners and other key stakeholders.

At the consumer/societal level:

  • To reinforce the confidence of fish processors, traders and consumers in farmed fish products by providing a certification process and accompanying documentation and publicity for the control of zoonotic (helminth) parasites in aquaculture fish products.


Expected results

ParaFishControl will foster improved biosecurity, health and welfare of farmed fish.

The project will create new scientific knowledge of the selected fish parasites and their interactions with hosts, which is essential for the development of targeted control measures. In vivo and in vitro models will be developed for both metazoan and protistan parasites, which will be used to screen for anti-parasitic compounds/treatment strategies.

Genetic markers and assays will be developed to assess the potential transfer of parasites between wild and farmed fish. Linking the outputs of several Work Packages will help to define the most appropriate measures for farmers to minimise wild/farmed fish interactions.

Prophylactic measures integrating management and improved biosecurity measures with vaccination strategy will be developed.

Highly accurate and cost-effective diagnostic tools and methods to detect parasites in fish and in the environment will be developed. The impact of these improved tools will be crucial for an early detection of parasites, assisting stakeholders involved in management (diagnostic labs, fish health professionals and farmers) to quickly decide upon the most appropriate strategies to prevent spread of the disease. This will minimise epizootics and disease outbreaks.

The project will improve current treatments and develop novel treatments in compliance with European legislation to avoid parasite resistance, toxicity of chemicals, and persistence of chemical residues in fish and the environment. The treatments will be based on drugs, plant extracts, feed additives, natural parasite predators and bioactive compounds from fish-associated bacteria and will result in ready-to-be-registered products as well as innovative strategies for parasite treatments.

Risk factors for the introduction, establishment and spread of parasites in/between fish farms and the relevance of such risk factors (likelihood estimates) will be identified through expert consultation and epidemiological studies, taking parasite biology, concurrent infections and current management practices into account.

A Food Safety Program including protocols/good practice guidelines will be established to help aquaculture producers to avoid/decrease zoonotic risks in farmed fish and improving veterinary/food safety surveillance and better fish traceability.


                      ParaFishControl Website Icon Comms Press                                                       ParaFishControl Website Icon Coordination                                               ParaFishControl Website Icon Management

 Communication & Press: Marieke Reuver                 Coordination: Dr. Ariadna Sitjà-Bobadilla              Management: Dr. Enric Belles-Boix            


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