Lab staple agar hit by seaweed shortage

Lab staple agar hit by seaweed shortage

12/08/2015

Exceprt: "Microbiology’s most important reagent is in short supply, with potential consequences for research, public health and clinical labs around the world.

Agar — the seaweed-derived, gelatinous substance that biologists use to culture microbes — is experiencing a global downturn, marine biologists, agar producers and industry analysts toldNature. “There’s not enough seaweed for everyone, so basically we are now reducing our production,” says Pedro Sanchez, deputy managing director of Industrias Roko in Polígono de Silvota, Spain, which processes seaweed to make some 40% of the world’s agar.

The shortage can be traced to newly enforced trade restrictions on the seaweed, arising from environmental concerns that the algae are being overharvested. It is unclear how deeply the dearth will hit researchers, but it has already pushed wholesale prices of agar to an all-time high of around US$35–45 per kilogram — nearly triple the price before scarcities began. Individual researchers, who buy packaged agar from lab-supply companies, can pay many times this amount."

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