Researchers close in on worm resistance in sheep

Researchers have uncovered essential information in the fight against drug resistance in worms.

Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have sequenced the genome of the barber’s pole worm (Haemonchus contortus), which currently affects more than 50% of all UK sheep farms.

The genome could now provide a comprehensive understanding of how treatments against parasitic worms work and point to further new treatments and vaccines.

The barber’s pole worm is thought to cost the UK sheep industry more than £80m a year and is now resistant to all worm treatments. By comparing the genome of the barber’s pole worm with those of worms that have acquired drug resistance, researchers expect to reveal information about how and why resistance has occurred.

Professor Neil Sargison of the University of Edinburgh said: “Getting to grips with genomes such as the barber’s pole worm is our best option to tackle the issue of drug resistance and develop new drugs against parasitic worms to address this issue.”

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