hereford herd

UK scientists have been awarded more than £6m to be spent on research to improve the health of farmed livestock.

The money has come from BBSRC’s Animal Health Research Club and eight studies will take place at institutions around England and Scotland into farmed fish, poultry, sheep, pigs and cattle to better understand diseases which cost farmers millions of pounds a year. A total of £5.8m came from BBSRC with just over £800,000 from the Scottish Government. Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “By targeting these livestock diseases the Animal Health Research Club projects have the potential to protect farmed animals and food supplies and save UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year.”

The projects include an investigation into Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus by Professor Alan Archibald, Professor Stephen Bishop, Dr Tahar Ait-Ali  and Professor Tanja Opriessnig from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh. Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is a viral disease of pigs that accounts for a third of infectious disease costs to the US pig industry, approximately $600m annually. It is also the most costly disease to the European pig industry. By identifying genetic markers, the study will provide tools to help select pigs with increased PRRS resistance. Also being funded is an inquiry into footrot by Professor Laura Green, Dr Kevin Purdy and Professor Matthew Keeling from the University of Warwick, in collaboration with Dr Jasmeet Kaler from the University of Nottingham.

Footrot is very common in sheep in the UK, affecting more than 95% of flocks. It is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, a bacterium that causes inflammation of the skin of the foot which leads to lameness. The study will determine which molecular factors in Dichelobacter nodosus and which managements in sheep are most important. Separately, a team will work to better understanding inflammatory processes in ovine footrot to support  vaccine design. The work will be done by Dr Sabine Totemeyer, Dr Tracey Coffey, Dr Jasmeet Kaler, Dr Richard Emes and Mr Peers Davies from the University of Nottingham in collaboration with Prof Gary Entrican and Sean Wattegedera for Moredun Research Institute Another team to benefit from funding is Professor David Hume, Professor David Burt, Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Helen Sang and Professor Peter Kaiser from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, who will look at how best to protect poultry against a wide range of pathogens.

Some of the current methods, including the use of antibiotics, are becoming less effective or have been banned because of hazards to human health. Researchers have identified a protein in birds called CSF-1 which controls the numbers of macrophages – a type of white blood cell important in immune response. The study will test the capacities of the protein. Resistance to cryptosporidiosis in cattle will be the focus of work done by Professor Elisabeth Innes, Dr Frank Katzer and Dr Emily Jane Hotchkiss from Moredun Research Institute, in collaboration with Dr Liam Morrison, Dr Neil Mabbott and Dr Jayne Hope  at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh and Dr Mintu Nath, The James Hutton Institute.

Cryptosporidium parasites are a major cause of intestinal disease in farmed livestock worldwide, and are also a leading cause of infant diarrhoea in humans. There are no safe and effective treatments or vaccines currently available and the project will provide the fullest exploration yet of how cattle resist infection. One of the other projects will seek to develop a vaccine to control teladorsagiosis worm in sheep, with the work being done by Professor Jacqueline Matthews, Dr Alasdair Nisbet, Dr Tom McNeilly and Dr Stewart Burgess from the Moredun Research Institute in collaboration with Dr Simon Babayan from the University of Glasgow.

Worm infections are the most costly endemic disease affecting sheep in the UK but dewormers are becoming less effective as resistance to the drugs increases. Recently, the research group discovered an effective vaccine prototype for control of Teladorsagia circumcincta, the dominant worm present in the UK sheep industry, and the study will investigate to developing a commercially viable vaccine.

The other projects are:

Development of oral vaccination strategies for Atlantic salmon, by Professor Chris Secombes and Dr Jun Zou, from the University of Aberdeen; Professor Sandra Adams, Professor James Bron and Professor Randolph Richards from the  University of Stirling; Professor Gordon Allan,  Dr Mark Mooney from Queen’s University of Belfast. The work will investigate disease in farmed salmon. *Work to improve control of infectious bronchitis virus by Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Peter Kaiser from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with Professor Paul Britton, The Pirbright Institute. Infectious bronchitis virus is an endemic virus that causes severe disease outbreaks in chickens worldwide.