New science consortium applies genetic approaches to tackle drug resistance in parasitic worms
A new science collaboration, The Bug Consortium: Building Upon the Genome - using Haemonchus contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic GI parasites, has recently won £2.9 million research funding from the BBSRC and RESAS, Scottish Government, to tackle an increasing global problem of drug resistance in important parasitic worms affecting livestock. The project is being led by the University of Glasgow and also involves scientists from the Moredun Research Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, University of Edinburgh, SRUC and the University of Bristol.
Parasitic worms infect all species of grazing livestock and need to be treated for the health and welfare of the animal. Currently, treatment and prevention of parasitic disease relies on the use of a small number of drugs called anthelmintics. However, resistance to anthelmintics has developed rapidly, and threatens their effectiveness, particularly against worms of sheep and goats. Diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance is difficult and it remains unclear how resistance arises and spreads in parasite populations.
The BUG Consortium will use new sequencing technologies to examine the genomes of parasitic nematodes to investigate the genetic changes that confer drug resistance.The major aims of the project are: to develop genetic markers for the early diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance and to study the origin and spread of resistance alleles in the field, to model the spread of resistance under different treatment strategies, and to use the genome as a tool for vaccine discovery. The project will focus on the two most economically important parasitic nematodes of sheep, H. contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta, but the results will be applicable to parasites of other livestock species, such as cattle and horses, where resistance is emerging.
Dr David Bartley, lead scientist at the Moredun Research Institute said, “Parasitic nematodes cause significant disease in livestock food species worldwide resulting in substantial production losses and welfare issues. A major emerging issue is the rapid development of drug resistance in these parasites making it very difficult to control infection and disease”. Moredun’s role in this project will include the development and generation of genomic resources for sequencing, applying markers of anthelmintic resistance in the field to assess the impact of different control strategies on worm populations and the translation of results to relevant stakeholders.
The BUG Consortium was one of only five Strategic Longer and Larger grants (sLoLas) awarded in 2014 (see www.bbsrc.ac.uk for further information). Importantly, the project includes significant consultation with the farming community and guidance from an external Advisory Panel, comprising stakeholders and experts in the field.
Professor Eileen Devaney, University of Glasgow, leading the project said, “This project brings together an excellent team of researchers to address an important problem in food security. It builds upon the long held reputation of the University of Glasgow in veterinary parasitology and will allow scientists with expertise in modeling and population genomics to work alongside those studying parasite genomes and mechanisms of drug resistance”.
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