Nematode vaccine funding confirmed for sheep parasites

Funding is flowing into British research institutions to develop an effective vaccine for on-farm worm control as increasing efforts are made to keep chemical options working.

The five-year £6m project hopes to yield a commercially exploitable vaccine against the main gastrointestinal parasites limiting sheep productivity across the world.

See also: Can sheep be ‘worm tolerant’ and what are the implications?

Previous work has achieved varying levels of protection. An initial pilot study in 1994 reported an average reduction of 31% and 58% against T colubriformis, Haemonchus contortus and C oncophora and a barber’s pole vaccine has been developed and used in Australia.   

Prof Andrew Love, a research leader from the James Hutton Institute and participant in the project, said controlling gastrointestinal parasites would enhance animal welfare and reduce serious economic losses and agricultural greenhouse gases.

The announcement was welcomed by the Sustainable Control of Parasites (Scops), which said: “Given Scops works to reduce the speed at which resistance develops to anthelmintic worm treatments, any options to widen the arsenal of tools to tackle worms is very welcome.”

More than half the funding will go to Scottish researchers. Moredun Research Institute will lead the project in partnership with the University of Glasgow, the James Hutton Institute and the University of New England in Australia.

Chemical treatments are the mainstay of parasite control programmes for nematode infections, but resistance to these treatments severely undermines control options on-farm in many areas of the world.

To allow a sustainable future for sheep farming, vaccines need to be developed, said Moredun.