£3m grant to tackle drug resistance in livestock parasites

Published: 14 January 2015

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have been awarded almost £3m to tackle drug resistance in animal parasites.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have been awarded almost £3m to tackle drug resistance in animal parasites.

Gastrointestinal parasites infect all species of grazing livestock and can affect the health and welfare of animals.

However, parasites are becoming increasingly resistant to the drugs, called anthelmintics, used to treat infection.

The funding from the BBSRC strategic Longer and Larger grant (sLoLa) to the team based in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine will help tackle the problem of anthelmintic resistance.

The BUG Consortium: Building Upon the Genome: using H. contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic GI parasites was one of only five sLoLas awarded in 2014.

Resistance to anthelmintics has developed rapidly, particularly in nematode worms of sheep and goats. Diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance is difficult and it remains unclear how resistance arises and spreads in parasite populations.

The BUG Consortium will use new sequencing technologies to examine the genomes of parasitic nematodes to investigate the genetic changes that confer drug resistance.

The major aims of the project are: to develop genetic markers for early diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance, to model the spread of resistance under different treatment strategies, and to use the genome as a tool for vaccine discovery.

The project will focus on the two most economically-important parasitic nematodes of sheep, Haemonchus contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta, but the results will be applicable to parasites of other livestock species, such as cattle and horses, where resistance is emerging.

Professor Eileen Devaney, who leads the UK-wide team of scientists, said: “This project brings together an excellent team of researchers to address an important problem in food security.

“It builds upon the long held reputation of the University of Glasgow in veterinary research, recognized in the recent Research Excellence Framework as having the highest quality research of any Vet School in the UK, and parasitology in particular.  It will allow scientists in the Institute with expertise in modelling and population genomics to work alongside those studying parasite genomes and mechanisms of drug resistance.”

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: “This funding will support world-leading research teams in Sheffield, Kent, Manchester, Glasgow and Oxford to address research gaps in bioscience for the benefit of the UK.

“From harnessing the sun’s power for better biofuel production to investigating how to reduce costs for British sheep farmers, these research projects supported by almost £16m from government will help to find long-term solutions to some of our biggest challenges in areas like health, energy and agriculture.”

Importantly, the project includes significant consultation with the farming community and guidance from an external Advisory Panel, comprising stakeholders and experts in the field.

The total award is £2.9 million, of which £1.35 million will come to the University of Glasgow. The Glasgow team includes Professor Eileen Devaney (PI), Dr Roz Laing, Professor Barbara Mable, Dr Collette Britton and Dr Louise Mathews with collaborators from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Drs James Cotton and Matthew Berriman), University of Edinburgh (Professor Neil Sargison), University of Bristol (Dr Eric Morgan), the Moredun Research Institute (Dr Dave Bartley) and Scotland’s Rural College (Professor Alistair Stott and Dr Cath Milne).

In addition, Professor Mike Stear, Dr Richard Reeve and Professor John Gilleard (University of Calgary) are collaborators. 

Media enquiries: stuart.forsyth@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 4831

First published: 14 January 2015

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