Few words evoke as many cringes as "herpes." There's really no positive connotation, ever. Except now, in Australia, the land of everyday objects that can kill you. Aussies are harnessing the power of herpes to combat an invasive species.
Australian science minister Chris Pyne and the Australian government have announced plans to fight a massive European carp infestation by releasing the herpes virus into the country’s river systems, according to a report in the Telegraph. The $15 million plan ($11.4 million U.S.) will kill millions of carp inside the 2,300mi Murray-Darling river system, wiping out 95% of the invasive species after the project launches in 2018.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has tested the modified herpes virus on local fish populations already to ensure that only carp on dating apps (just a joke) in the Murray-Darling rivers will be affected by the virus. Other native fish will not be impacted -- sorry, other species of fish looking to date outside your normal pool.
Within three days of infection, the virus destroys the carp’s skin and kidneys. They die within 24 hours of showing symptoms. As an invasive species, the carp are estimated to cause $500 million in damage, consuming local fish, turning up river beds, and making it difficult for native marine life to feed and breathe normally.
Thus far, trapping, commercial fishing, and exclusion haven't sufficiently culled the carp population, reports The Guardian. And since fish don't know what condoms are, they're powerless against herpes.
“Suddenly, there will be literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tons of carp that will be dead in the River Murray,” Pyne told ABC News. "There’s obvious talk about whether the carp could be used for fertilizer, whether they could be used for pet food, whether they’ll need to be buried in large graves and be allowed to dissipate back into the system."
In addition to killing carp, the project will require measures to boost the native fish population. Oh, and somebody has to do something about millions of dead fish.
“I think a river full of dead carp is not going to be fantastic for business,” Robert Hughes, a houseboat operator, told ABC News, vastly understating his plight.
So, next time you buy your cat that ominously vague “Fish” flavored cat food, note that it has the potential to be herpes-ridden carp, though there are no known health risks to eating herpes-infected carp. Matt Barwick, a senior fisheries manager, told ABC that carp with traces of the virus are eaten every day in Israel.
“There is up to 58 million individual carp that are eaten for breakfast in Israel every day, with the virus, and there’s never been a single documented human health issue,” he said.
Still, nothing about "herpes-infected carp" sounds delicious, or sexy. Unless you're a cat, or really believe in Rule 34.