Bacteria may hold key to non-chemical sheep scab treatment

Future sheep scab treatments could rely on new non-chemical methods to tackle the sheep scab mite.

SAC PhD student Sarah Hall plans to investigate the relationship between the bacteria associated with sheep scab and mites and the extent to which the survival of the mites is affected when these internal bacteria are reduced or altered.

“Our results so far indicate that mites fed antimicrobials have much shorter lives thean those fed a normal sheep serum diet,” she explained. While the results are still being analysed preliminary results indicate potential links between bacterial density and survival.

“Once there is a clear picture of which species of bacteria are present with the sheep scab mites it should be possible to find a type of naturally occurring bacteria-specific virus – known as a bacteriophage – which would selectively kill these bacteria,” said Ms Hall.

“The result could be an environmentally sound alternative to chemical treatments which would only kill a single species of bacteria within the mite and pose no harm to humans or animals.”