Extensive experience gained researching sheep scab mites has opened up a major new avenue for researching poultry red mite, according to Dr John Huntley, of Edinburgh’s Moredun Research Institute.

A DEFRA-funded project, in collaboration with SAC’s Avian Science Research Centre, is aimed at developing a vaccine to this parasite, which causes huge economic loss to the industry.

Major poultry red mite resistance problems, said Dr Huntley, mean there are now very limited chemical treatment options.

Researchers have discovered that the mites behave very similarly to the way cattle ticks respond to commercial vaccine – antibodies in the blood of vaccinated animals will prevent the mite feeding properly by targeting gut membrane proteins.

“The work started in October so it is early days yet, but already we have some fascinating and very encouraging results,” Dr Huntley observed.