The TargetFish project (Targeted disease prophylaxis in European fish farming) was completed in September 2017. It was a large and international collaborative project whose main objective was to prevent important fish diseases in the European aquaculture industry by developing effective vaccination strategies.


The Project began in 2012 and was funded with 6 million euro by the European Commission 7th Framework programme – Programme for research and technological Development (Grant Agreement No. 311993). It included 30 collaborators, both industrial and academic, across 13 EU countries.

The IZSVe contribution

The Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe) participated in the project coordinated by Wageningen University (The Netherlands) with the researchers of the OIE Reference Laboratory for Viral Encephalopathy and Retinopathy of Marine Fish.

The IZSVe contributed to the project by performing in-depth studies on Viral Nervous Necrosis (VNN), one of the most threatening viral diseases affecting sea bass. The main objective was to work on the development of vaccines against this infection.

In the specific, the IZSVe researchers concentrated on the following issues:

  • the immune response of sea bass against the different betanodaviruses (causative agent of VNN) circulating in the Mediterranean Sea;
  • the influence of water temperature and salinity on the occurrence of the disease and on the sea bass mortality rate caused by betanodavirus;
  • assessing the efficacy of prototype vaccines under experimental conditions and administered via different routes (i.e., by immersion, oral, by injection);
  • the immune response to different prototype vaccines in the presence or absence of different immunostimulants.

The IZSVe participated in the Targetfish project to investigate various aspects of viral encephalopathy and retinopathy, the main viral disease of sea bass. Some of the prototype vaccines which were experimentally studied turned out to be very promising and will be further improved thanks to future research activities.

Some of the prototype vaccines which were experimentally studied at the IZSVe turned out to be very promising and will be further improved thanks to future research activities.

Results of the project

Overall, the joint activities carried out by the European groups have contributed to achieve the following tasks:

  • to develop and test on the field prototype automatic vaccination devices specifically intended for non-conventional (i.e., turbot) and small size species;
  • to optimize the use of vaccination in aquaculture also through non-conventional vaccination approaches;
  • to test the use of new encapsulating agents for oral administration;
  • to develop and to test novel immunostimulants (adjuvants, flagellins).
  • to generate knowledge by studying how the most common bacterial and viral diseases affecting farmed fish species originate and to understand their routes of transmission;
  • to deepen the knowledge of the immune response of fish;
  • to establish the necessary knowledge and expertise to develop new generation vaccines (i.e., mucosal vaccines);
  • to monitor the efficacy and safety of both commercial and prototype vaccines;

These results have already been presented to the scientific community during the most relevant workshops and meetings of fish pathology. Thanks to the TargetFish project, more than 100 scientific articles have been published and a special issue of the Journal Fish and Shellfish Immunology will appear by the end of 2017.

In addition, the TargetFish consortium organized four industrial workshops specifically tailored to transfer the results also to the production sector. Several other relevant events were organized with the intention of disseminating the knowledge and achievements obtained. The IZSVe actively participated in the fourth TargetFish progress meeting, which was held in Chioggia (Venice) in 2016.

Further informations

Additional information on the Targetfish project are available at the following web address:

Go to TargetFish website»


List of publications featuring IZSVe researchers: