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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Berkeley: How Fat Prawns Can Save Lives

Before bite-sized crustaceans like crayfish, shrimp and prawns land on our dinner plates, they first have to get fat themselves — and it turns out they relish the freshwater snails that transmit the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, the second most devastating parasitic disease worldwide, after malaria.

New research led by University of California, Berkeley, scientists provides a roadmap for how entrepreneurs can harness freshwater prawns’ voracious appetite for snails to reduce the transmission of these parasites, also known as “blood flukes,” while still making a profit selling the tasty animals as food.

The study, which appears in the journal Nature Sustainability, shows how small-scale farming of freshwater prawns — also known as aquaculture — could be a win-win for communities in emerging and developing economies where schistosomiasis is common.

“River prawns are common aquaculture products in settings around the world, and we know these organisms are voracious predators of the snails that transmit schistosomiasis,” said Mr. Christopher Hoover, a doctoral student in the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences who led the study. “What has not been clear is if we could marry the economic benefits of prawn aquaculture with the disease-control activity of the prawns.”

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