Australia is using the herpes virus in an effort to control wild carp populations. This is the first eradication ever undertaken using herpes.

Carp are an invasive species in Australia, where they were introduced in 1859. Since that time, the species has proliferated so quickly, they now make up 80 to 90 percent of all fish in the Murray-Darling river system in southeastern Australia.

The National Carp Control Plan will invest $15 million over two-and-a-half years to eradicate the invasive fish from their waterways.

"Carp have major negative impact on water quality and the amenity value of our freshwater rivers and lakes. This affects all water users, including irrigators and regional communities. Carp also have a devastating impact on biodiversity, and have decimated native fish populations in many areas since they first became established as a major pest in the wild in the 1960s," the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Australia reported.

Introduction of the virus into water bodies down under is expected to target only carp, while other species will remain unharmed.

"The virus kills carp in about a week, so authorities have also organized a program to clean up the millions of metric tons of carp bodies that will be left behind. The virus is expected to kill 70 percent to 80 percent of carp in the Murray-Darling system," Science magazine stated.

Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 has been rigorously tested, and found to be deadly to the variety of carp invading Australia's waterways, while leaving populations of other animals unharmed. Within the bodies of carps, the virus multiples for a week, while it attacks the gills, skin and kidneys. Within 24 hours of the first signs of disease, the fish fall dead.

Although most carp in the affected waterways will die, a significant percentage of the fish will live through the treatment. This means that, over time, the surviving carp will develop a resistance to the herpes virus. Researchers believe they have around two to four years to utilize the virus before populations become immune to the microorganism. In China and Vietnam, carp have been exposed to the herpes virus since the 1990s with no adverse effects on human populations.

The herpes virus will be released into Australian waterways by the end of 2018.

Image: USGAO | Flickr

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