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Avoid farm raised shrimp. It’s vaxxed.

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Shrimp are slated to become the latest food source exposed to messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines, courtesy of ViAqua Therapeutics, an Israeli-based biotechnology startup. The company has secured $8.25 million in funding from venture capitalists for its oral RNA-based shrimp vaccine, which is intended to target white spot syndrome virus (WSSV).

With plans to administer its RNA-based product via coated feed, ViAqua suggests the RNA molecules can inhibit gene expression, silencing disease-affected genes with every meal.1 WSSV is a devastating condition in shrimp, leading to a 15% reduction in global shrimp production each year — an annual loss of about $3 billion.2

ViAqua says challenge tests show its RNA-based formulation improved shrimp survival against WSSV, but at what cost? The use of mRNA in the food supply is controversial for good reason — no one knows what the long-term consequences will be.

RNA Vaccines Coming for Shrimp

ViAqua is using RNA interference (RNAi) particles, provided as a feed supplement, to manipulate gene expression in shrimp, one of the most widely consumed forms of seafood worldwide. In a 2022 proof of concept study that used a polyanhydride nanoparticle delivery platform to deliver RNA to shrimp orally, it’s stated:3

The study found that the “nanovaccine” was about 80% effective in protecting against WSSV in shrimp, when administered via reverse gavage to “mimic an oral route.”4 ViAqua has brought the potential for oral delivery to the next level, with plans to begin producing its RNAi capsule products in India in 2024.5 Shai Ufaz, ViAqua’s chief executive officer, stated:6

Can Shrimp Be Vaccinated?

Shrimp lack an adaptive immune system, the type that “remembers” exposures to infectious agents so it can mount a better response the next time it comes around. Because of this, it’s long been assumed that shrimp cannot be vaccinated. According to the Global Seafood Alliance:7

However, while shrimp don’t have adaptive immunity in the traditional sense, it’s becoming clear that they do have some defense against viruses, which is only beginning to be understood. In 2008, researchers with Australia’s University of Queensland explained, “There is mounting evidence for specific immune memory in crustaceans, including shrimp,” adding:8

ViAqua’s RNAi product claims to “enhance resistance to viral infections” in shrimp,9 and they have plans to develop additional mRNA vaccines for fish and other biotechnology products targeting additional shrimp viruses and other pathogens.10

But shrimp pathogens of one kind or another are virtually guaranteed to persist in the intensive aquaculture farms where many shrimp are raised. Further, the risks of tinkering with shrimp genetics are completely unknown.

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mRNA Shots Already Used in Pork

The media has been pretty quiet about the up-and-coming genetic manipulation of shrimp. This seems to be par for the course. Few are aware that, since 2018, pork producers have been using customizable mRNA-based “vaccines” on their herds — as it largely slipped by under the radar.11

It wasn’t until attorney Tom Renz began promoting new legislation in Missouri (House Bill 1169,12 which he helped write) that would require labeling of mRNA products that it began to receive attention.13 In an April 1, 2023, tweet, Renz stated:14

Even though the bill asks only for transparency — not a ban of the mRNA-based shots — industry pushback has been enormous. They don’t want you to know that they’re using mRNA and similar products, because then they’d have to admit that the resulting foods may have gene-altering effects. And it’s not just pork, either.

Cattle Groups Urge Caution Over mRNA

The first RNA-based livestock vaccine, a swine influenza (H3N2) RNA shot developed by Harrisvaccines was licensed in 2012.15 The company followed up with an avian influenza mRNA shot in 2015.16

Concerns that mRNA injections could end up “in the global protein supply chain” also prompted warnings from cattle producers and calls for mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) so consumers can choose meat from countries that don’t allow mRNA shots in meat animals.17

In an April 2023 news release, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), a nonprofit that represents interests of independent U.S. cattle producers, shared concerns about the use of mRNA shots in cattle and other meat animals. Max Thornsberry, DVM, R-CALF’s animal health committee chair, met with medial doctors and a molecular biologist before briefing the R-CALF USA board:18

In a commentary, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard also urged caution regarding mRNA injections, stating:19

Is it possible that mRNA or RNAi nanoparticles could persist in the meat and shrimp you’re eating? Penny Riggs, associate research professor of functional genetics at Texas A&M, stated, “The estimate is that half of the mRNA from a vaccine is gone in about 20 hours, and completely destroyed within a few days.”20

However, Thornsberry cited21 one study, published in Biomedicines, that found mRNA from injections can be detected in blood 15 days post-shot.22

The proof-of-concept study for the shrimp RNA nanovaccine also found the particles persisted long after administration: “The nanoparticles localized to tissue target replication sites for WSSV and persisted through 28 days post-administration.”23 Again, the consequences of consuming these nanoparticles remains to be seen.

Antibiotic Resistance Widespread in Shrimp

Farm-raised seafood is among the most contaminated foods you can eat, shrimp included. Antibiotics are commonly used on farmed shrimp in an attempt to slow down pathogens.24 Not surprisingly, shrimp is often contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a result.

One investigation by CBC News Marketplace found 17% — nine of the 51 packages of shrimp imported from Vietnam, Thailand, China, India and Ecuador — were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.25 Among them, all but one showed resistance to multiple antibiotics.

Investigators purchased imported shrimp labeled “organic” as well as some with the “Best Aquaculture Practices” certification, which maintains that farmers only use antibiotics minimally.

So, while shrimp can be a healthy addition to your diet, it’s important to avoid farm-raised shrimp, which is the type served in most restaurants and the variety that’s slated to receive a gene-altering nanoparticle vaccine in its feed. When it comes to purchasing high-quality shrimp, look for those that are either wild caught or locally produced.

mRNA Vaccines Now Headed for Shrimp (



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