A representative from the company that is responsible for offering the first FDA-approved in-feed antibiotic for U.S. aquaculture in two decades spoke to an audience about the product recently during the Fish Farming Trade Show in Greenville, Miss.

Palma Jordan, senior marketing manager, global aquaculture, Schering Plough, said Aquaflor is safe to the public and environment and effective against enteric septicemia (ECS), associated with Edwardsiella ictaluri, without any apparent negative side effects.

Jordan said that, based on extensive research data, Aquaflor is marketable “because of fast-action results and rapidly declined mortality rates — allowing farmers to reduce restocking rates and production costs by not having to stock more fish.”

According to figures from the USDA, the two costliest catfish diseases, enteric septicemia and culminatus, cost producers nearly $50 million annually.

While Plough researchers have not yet begun studying to see if Aquaflor will thwart culminatus, Jordan said researchers tend to think it will be potentially effective.

But finding an antidote that will suppress ECS alone is enough for the industry to stand up and take notice. Hugh Warren, president of Catfish Farmers of America, has called Aquaflor a “breakthrough for the industry.”

“Having a safe, new generation antibiotic available gives catfish farmers a new tool for improving profitability while delivering a safe, wholesome product to today’s health-conscious consumers,” Warren said.

Plough’s literature outlining the product boasts that unlike sulfa drugs and tetracyclines, Aquaflor was developed specifically for use in food species. The development of Aquaflor was supported by scientists working at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, Miss., and specifically scientist Patricia Gaunt.

Studies conducted at both the Stoneville research center and the U.S. Geological Survey center in Wisconsin determined that Aquaflor offers both high palatability rates and low mortality rates when administered to catfish feed.

Jordan said that in one palatability study, Aquaflor scored a 19.5 out of 20. “And where the fish were given up to 10 times the recommended dosage alongside fish not treated with Aquaflor there showed no differences.

“The advantages to that is that you can help minimize mortality while your fish are eating the feed and you’ll maximize the antibiotic intake,” she said.

Jordan said there are also “convenient factors” to consider as benefits to applying Aquaflor: “It’s highly stable through high temperatures, and it’s used in floating feed so you can monitor your feed and antibiotic intake during treatment period.

“It also can be spread evenly though the granulation formulation. That helps to ensure that… you are getting the precise dosage delivered to your fish.”

The antibiotic is closely related to another product developed by Plough, called Nuflor (florfenicol), which has been proven to treat respiratory disease in cattle. Because of this FDA classification, it is required that catfish farmers obtain a prescription of Aquaflor from a licensed veterinarian.

Jordan said Aquaflor has proven to be a major success with fish growers in Europe and Latin America for about 15 years. Company officials have similar expectations in the U.S. aquaculture market.

“It was first licensed in Japan and Norway, now used in aquaculture around the world. It has an excellent proven track record,” she said.

One advantage Jordan repeatedly noted is that Aquaflor offers a relatively short withdrawal period. “That leaves farmers ample marketing flexibility,” she said.

e-mail: abell@prismb2b.com