A systems biology approach to controlling nematode infections of livestock

Matthews & Stear

This project is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) funded by the EC.

Nematodes represent a major threat to the health and welfare of livestock as well as the sustainability of livestock farming. Current control measures involve anthelmintic treatment but this is threatened by the evolution of drug resistance in parasite populations. Consequently, alternative control measures are urgently needed. The most promising strategy is the exploitation of genetic variation in resistance to nematode infection. This involves either selective breeding or use of relatively resistant breeds. Selective breeding has been used successfully in Australia and New Zealand. There are two barriers to the widespread exploitation of genetic resistance: many farmers lack the necessary expertise in quantitative genetics and concern about potentially harmful side-effects of genetic resistance. Additional quantitative research is necessary to address these concerns.

A systems biology approach is necessary to intgrate the information from many different disciplines into a coherent and consistent description of the host-parasite interaction. The objectives are: to advance our understanding of host-nematode interactions, to use the enhanced understanding to control nematode infections of livestock, to train researchers with the necessary skills to understand and control nematode infections and to apply nematode control on selected farms within Europe.