A fixed-dose approach to conducting emamectin benzoate tolerance assessments on field-collected sea lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis

S. K. Whyte, J. D. Westcott, A. Elmoslemany, K. L. Hammell, C. W. Revie

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In New Brunswick, Canada, the sea louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, poses an on-going management challenge to the health and productivity of commercially cultured Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar. While the in-feed medication, emamectin benzoate (SLICE®; Merck), has been highly effective for many years, evidence of increased tolerance has been observed in the field since late 2008. Although bioassays on motile stages are a common tool to monitor sea lice sensitivity to emamectin benzoate in field-collected sea lice, they require the collection of large numbers of sea lice due to inherent natural variability in the gender and stage response to chemotherapeutants. In addition, sensitive instruments such as EC50 analysis may be unnecessarily complex to characterize susceptibility subsequent to a significant observed decline in efficacy. This study proposes an adaptation of the traditional, dose-response format bioassay to a fixed-dose method. Analysis of 657 bioassays on preadult and adult stages of sea lice over the period 2008-2011 indicated a population of sea lice in New Brunswick with varying degrees of susceptibility to emamectin benzoate. A seasonal and spatial effect was observed in the robustness of genders and stages of sea lice, which suggest that mixing different genders and stages of lice within a single bioassay may result in pertinent information being overlooked. Poor survival of adult female lice in bioassays, particularly during May/June, indicates it may be prudent to consider excluding this stage from bioassays conducted at certain times of the year. This work demonstrates that fixed-dose bioassays can be a valuable technique in detecting reduced sensitivity in sea lice populations with varying degrees of susceptibility to emamectin benzoate treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-292
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Fish Diseases
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • bioassay
  • emamectin benzoate
  • lepeoptheirus salmonis
  • sea lice

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