DNA vaccines for aquacultured fish

Rev Sci Tech. 2005 Apr;24(1):201-13.


Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vaccination is based on the administration of the gene encoding the vaccine antigen, rather than the antigen itself. Subsequent expression of the antigen by cells in the vaccinated hosts triggers the host immune system. Among the many experimental DNA vaccines tested in various animal species as well as in humans, the vaccines against rhabdovirus diseases in fish have given some of the most promising results. A single intramuscular (IM) injection of microgram amounts of DNA induces rapid and long-lasting protection in farmed salmonids against economically important viruses such as infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) and viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV). DNA vaccines against other types of fish pathogens, however, have so far had limited success. The most efficient delivery route at present is IM injection, and suitable delivery strategies for mass vaccination of small fish have yet to be developed. In terms of safety, no adverse effects in the vaccinated fish have been observed to date. As DNA vaccination is a relatively new technology, various theoretical and long-term safety issues related to the environment and the consumer remain to be fully addressed, although inherently the risks should not be any greater than with the commercial fish vaccines that are currently used. Present classification systems lack clarity in distinguishing DNA-vaccinated animals from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which could raise issues in terms of licensing and public acceptance of the technology. The potential benefits of DNA vaccines for farmed fish include improved animal welfare, reduced environmental impacts of aquaculture activities, increased food quality and quantity, and more sustainable production. Testing under commercial production conditions has recently been initiated in Canada and Denmark.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Aquaculture* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Fish Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Fishes
  • Injections, Intramuscular / veterinary
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccines, DNA*


  • Vaccines, DNA