• Kyodo

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Researchers from the Kumamoto Prefectural Fisheries Research Center and food maker Meiji Seika Kaisha Ltd. have jointly developed a drug to kill a parasite that affects the gills of farmed “fugu,” a fish highly valued in Japanese cuisine.

The drug is expected to provide a viable alternative to formalin, a highly poisonous substance that has been widely used to combat parasites in fish farming.

The Kumamoto-Meiji team has asked the Fisheries Agency for approval to use the drug as an animal pharmaceutical product and hopes to commercially market the product next summer.

Officials at the fisheries center say the drug removes the parasite Heterobothrium from the gills of “fugu,” or tiger puffers, when it is released into the fish’s bloodstream through food.

The drug will not remain in the fish’s body when used according to specifications, the officials said.

To kill parasites, fish farmers previously relied on formalin — a cheap, poisonous substance the Fisheries Agency banned in 1981 due to concerns for the environment and its potential impact on human health.

The new drug is not the first fruit of Kumamoto’s search for an alternative to formalin. In 1997, the prefecture obtained government approval for a different type of antiparasite drug it jointly developed with a private company.

But the drug, which consisted mainly of hydrogen peroxide, was too powerful and hurt the fish itself, prompting some fish farmers to resort to formalin.