Scientists at Moredun, lead by Dr David Smith, have successfully developed a vaccine for the Barber's Pole Worm (Haemonchus contortus), the most important roundworm parasite of sheep and goats in the world.
Barbervax®, the first vaccine in the world for a worm parasite of sheep and a revolutionary new tool for farmers to combat Barbers Pole was registered for use in Australia in early October 2014. The first batch of vaccine, consisting 300,000 doses, was all sold within 10 days just by word of mouth.
The basis for Barbervax was devised after many years of research at Moredun and commercialised during the last five years through a collaboration with the Albany laboratory of the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, where it is made by Wormvax Australia, a subsidiary of Moredun.
Barbervax was trialled extensively in Australian Merinos over the last three summers with good results. Mathematical modelling indicates that the degree by which the vaccine reduces worm egg output and hence pasture contamination offers a level of control superior to a conventional anthelmintic programme.
Barbervax works against all Barbers Pole worms including drench resistant ones. It offers a more sustainable form of control, because it is extremely unlikely that vaccine resistant worms will develop. Using Barbervax will reduce the need to use those drenches which are still effective on a particular farm, therefore prolonging their life.
Barbervax contains tiny amounts of protein purified from the lining of Barbers Pole intestines. Like all vaccines, it works by stimulating the natural immune response in the animal after injection. The antibodies produced circulate in the sheep’s blood, so that the parasites drink antibodies with their blood meal. These antibodies attach to the lining of the Barbers Pole intestine, blocking digestion and starving the worm so that it produces far fewer eggs and dies.
We are also exploring the development of a vaccine to control the sheep stomach wormTeladorsagia circumcincta which is endemic in temperate regions of the world and is currently the major cause of parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) in sheep in the UK. As animals can acquire an effective immune response over time, vaccination against this parasitic nematode is a possible alternative for control. We are focusing our efforts on understanding this development of immunity and identifying what factors the worms produce which both stimulate and suppress the immune response to target these molecules for vaccine development.
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