A review of efforts to develop a vaccine against sea lice is presented together with analysis of the rationale behind the approaches and potential future directions. Vaccines against the caligid copepod, Lepeophtheirus salmonis , have the potential to be a cost‐effective means of controlling the infection and avoid many of the disadvantages of medicine treatments. However, research towards such vaccines is in its infancy and approaches so far used have met with little or no success. Most strategies for sea louse vaccines have adopted methods used for vaccines against other ectoparasites. A vaccine against the cattle tick ( Boophilus microplus ) is in field use while other vaccines such as the sheep blowfly ( Lucilia cuprina ) vaccine are at an earlier stage of development. These haematophageous parasites ingest host antibody as part of a large blood meal which can target antigenic sites in the gut. However, the assumption that arachnid and insect physiology are directly comparable with that of sea lice is not proven, and this may partly explain the slow progress this approach has had with sea lice. Success in developing a louse vaccine will depend upon a better understanding of louse digestive biology, particularly an evaluation of whether the cattle tick model is applicable to the development of a louse vaccine. If the louse gut is to be targeted immunologically, critical antigens will need to be identified and evaluated, bearing in mind that an economic vaccine must include recombinant proteins or be a DNA vaccine. Alternatives to the louse gut as a target are also worth consideration. Antibodies could target critical host–parasite interactions that are amenable to disruption, although no such targets have been identified.
© 2002 Society of Chemical Industry