10.12.2018

Moredun researchers led team to publish the genome of the poultry red mite

Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute have led an international team to publish the genome of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae.

Infestation of hen houses with poultry red mites causes major animal welfare and economic problems for the egg-producing industry worldwide, costing in excess of €231 million per year in the European Union alone in control and production losses. Poultry red mites are blood-feeding parasites and can form large populations in the accommodation of birds kept for long periods of time such as those found in commercial egg laying operations.

Current treatment options are limited, some are ineffective, and the poultry red mite problem is likely to increase because resistance is developing to the traditional chemical treatments and consumer demand (and legislation) are driving reduced use of chemicals in food production. The illegal use of the pesticide fipronil in laying hens in Europe in 2017 to control poultry red mites caused a major public health scare and resulted in the destruction of millions of eggs. Demand for new methods of controlling this parasite is therefore driven by the inadequacy of current control methods which results in uncontrolled infestations and substantial welfare issues and commercial losses.

One of the cornerstones of developing such new control methods is understanding the biology of the parasite to identify targets within it at which to aim new weapons. Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute, along with a team of colleagues from across Europe, have now sequenced the genome of the poultry red mite and made it publically available as a key tool to allow the design of new methods of control through a greater understanding of the biology of the parasite.

Dr. Stewart Burgess, who spearheaded the genome sequencing effort commented; “This was by far the largest mite genome that we have encountered so far, so the expertise of our international team was vital in bringing the sequencing together into the assembled genome.”

Dr. Alasdair Nisbet, who leads the red mite team at Moredun, added; “We are delighted to have produced this resource which will be a huge asset to those involved in poultry red mite research as we search for new ways to control such a devastating and important parasite."

Link to paper: https://doi.org/10.1128/MRA.01221-18