Vets to take on parasites

Issued: Mon, 30 Jul 2007 11:29:00 BST


Researchers from the University of Glasgow's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine are to play a key role in tackling animal disease after winning £1million to fund a collaboration with the Moredun  Institute, Edinburgh and the Sanger Institute, Cambridge.

Professor John Gilleard and his team will look at ways of combating parasitic worms in sheep and cattle.

Currently, parasitic worms are becoming increasingly resistant to conventional drugs used against them. Professor Gilleard's research will detect and monitor resistance, investigate how it develops and how it may be combated.

Professor Gilleard said: "This is a very exciting and important project because resistance to drugs in parasitic worms is an emerging problem that is of relevance to animal and human health in many parts of the world.

"In the UK, more than 60 per cent of sheep worms are resistant to at least one drug class and multiple resistance threatens the sustainability of the UK sheep sector.

"Understanding the problem of parasitic worms' resistance to drugs is of vital importance to the agricultural industry and we hope our research will provide solutions which will help tackle animal disease.

"This project will develop molecular tools to detect and monitor resistance, investigate how it develops and how it may be combated. Molecular genetic markers will also be used to investigate the genetic diversity of parasites collected from sheep throughout the UK and to identify mutations in genes that confer resistance."

The multidisciplinary research team will include vets and scientists with expertise in parasitology, genetics, molecular biology, genomics, epidemiology and clinical veterinary medicine.

The award is part of a UK-wide £11million grant from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research council.

Combating Endemic Diseases of Farmed Animals for Sustainability, which is also backed by the Scottish Executive, aims to tackle some of the most harmful and widespread diseases that commonly affect farmed animals in the UK. The initiative will improve the sustainability of UK farming by ultimately reducing the cost of treating diseases and the loss of affected livestock.

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said: "Good animal health is vital to the well being and prosperity of all our rural communities. I am very pleased that Scotland is playing its part in the wider UK scientific effort to combat animal disease.

“Some of these diseases have been identified as priorities for reduction or eradication by the Scottish farming industry. The results will contribute to addressing these diseases and help to promote animal health and welfare.

“There is an increasing emphasis in Scotland on collaboration in science and I welcome this opportunity of joint collaborative working both between research bodies and also between UK research funders."

Professor Nigel Brown, BBSRC Director of Science and Technology, said: “Endemic animal diseases cost UK farmers and consumers huge amounts of money every year and cause real suffering for animals. The projects launched today are targeted at bringing the country’s world-class science to bear against some of the most damaging diseases. By working with farmers and industry, scientists can make a real difference in areas where help is needed.”

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