Author(s): Laurent Verschuere
There is an urgent need in aquaculture to develop microbial control strategies, since disease outbreaks are recognized as important constraints to aquaculture production and trade and since the development of antibiotic resistance has become a matter of growing concern. One of the alternatives to antimicrobials in disease control could be the use of probiotic bacteria as microbial control agents. This review describes the state of the art of probiotic research in the culture of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and live food, with an evaluation of the results obtained so far. A new definition of probiotics, also applicable to aquatic environments, is proposed, and a detailed description is given of their possible modes of action, i.e., production of compounds that are inhibitory toward pathogens, competition with harmful microorganisms for nutrients and energy, competition with deleterious species for adhesion sites, enhancement of the immune response of the animal, improvement of water quality, and interaction with phytoplankton. A rationale is proposed for the multistep and multidisciplinary process required for the development of effective and safe probiotics for commercial application in aquaculture. Finally, directions for further research are discussed.