Clinical chemistry

Clinical chemistry is the cornerstone of human and veterinary medicine. With the support of the Scottish aquaculture industry, WellFish Diagnostics have re-purposed human/veterinary high throughput medical technology for use on fish blood to enable rapid clinical chemistry centred health assessment, based on the continuous sampling of fish stock, similar to that used in other livestock based agriculture.

Fish health assessment

“The research is already making an impact on how we assess fish health and has the potential to significantly change how we approach fish health in the salmon industry (both in Scotland and internationally) in the future”.

Ralph Bickerdike Ph.D., Head of Fish Health & Welfare, Scottish Sea Farms

Our substantial clinical chemistry database for >35 biomarkers measured in thousands of salmon and trout samples, including a 12-month sampling plan from a ‘control’ site to establish background levels enables us to offer unique clinical interpretation of clinical chemistry biomarker results. The WellFish Diagnostics clinical chemistry biomarker profiles include:

  • Gill & osmoregulatory function
  • Cardiac & muscle function
  • Liver, kidney & pancreatic function
  • Mineral profile
  • Freshwater / smoltification
  • Lipid profile
  • Immunology

The Problem

The dependence of aquaculture on slow, lethal, histology-based methods to assess fish health.

The Solution

Continuous fish health monitoring of representative fish numbers using non-lethal clinical chemistry with interpreted results presented with 24h facilitating date informed husbandry decisions.

Figure 1: Description of the current reactive model for fish health care (1): following observation of moribund fish (a) and a vet inspection (b), 3-5 fish are killed (c), for tissue biopsies (5 mm) (d) analysed by histology (e) with reports (f) taking up to 10 days. In comparison, the novel pro-active healthcare model (2) involves continuous (weekly or bi-weekly) (a) blood sampling of representative (n=30) numbers (b) with serum (c) analysed using automated clinical chemistry technologies (d) to produce an intuitive site specific report via a mobile platform (e) and company-wide (f) report within 24 hours facilitating data informed husbandry. 

Routine health monitoring

A selection of 20 biomarkers are used to assess general health on 30 fish (10 from 3 pens) from a site on a monthly/biweekly basis for continuous health monitoring. These endpoints are chosen from our various biomarker panels to indicate general homeostasis and impacts on specific organs/tissues. Results are graphed and presented via our company specific login portal within 24h. Data interpretation using various algorithms in our AI model classifies the fish as healthy/unhealthy and estimates the specific health challenge where appropriate.

Diagnostic testing

Where a health challenge is suspected or has been identified diagnostic analysis is undertaken frequently (weekly/biweekly) using a smaller number of biomarkers relevant to the specific health challenge or tissue/organ being effected, helping to assess the impact and monitor the recovery.

Data presentation

Data is presented to our customers via our secure intuitive website portal where the biomarker results are presented at the regional, site, pen and individual fish level (to allow comparison with PCR and histopathological samples). Results are graphed and presented as both individual biomarkers and as panel for a single timepoint and over time to enable trends to be identified.

Fish health and smoltification information generated by our bespoke AI model are also presented graphically with all data available via a spreadsheet to facilitate integration into your fish health management system.

Cost effective rapid analysis

Using automated, high throughput technology enables the cost-effective analysis of large sample numbers, enabling more representative sample numbers to be analysed per site. This approach also helps reduces the chances of a critical organ pathology being overlooked and allows for regular health monitoring to be undertaken, enabling the early identification of a health challenge and early intervention.


Commercial advantage

The primary commercial advantage of this novel, blood based clinical chemistry approach is speed of analysis:

  • Results clinically interpreted by the proprietary algorithm and presented via an intuitive mobile platform within 24 hours (Figure 1).
  • Enables fish health managers to make data-informed husbandry decisions, facilitating predictive health forecasting, reducing mortality and increasing productivity (Figure 2)
  • Enables the development of a novel pro-active fish healthcare model, augmenting the understanding of many health issues and ultimately replacing the need for histological-based analysis.

Figure 2. The predictive nature of the novel pro-active healthcare model developed by WellFish Diagnostics, resulting in increased treatment efficacy and a lower treatment cost.

As this technique is non-lethal and automated, larger, more representative sample numbers can be analysed (e.g. 10 fish from 3 pens per site).

Other advantages

Other advantages include:

  • The ability to assess the health of the whole fish (homeostasis), as well as the functioning of specific tissues (e.g. liver, kidney).
  • Data presentation via a traffic light system (green = healthy; orange = potential health issue; red = serious health issue requiring immediate attention).
  • Enables fish health managers to make data informed husbandry decisions, improving fish health, productivity and profitability.