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PRESS RELEASE: Research gets a huge boost towards a new generation louping ill vaccine

A flock of sheep standing in a field looking at the camera
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust Scotland logo: The name is written in green, with a simple drawing of a grouse above the text.

An exciting partnership has been launched between Moredun and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to tackle the problem of louping ill, an often fatal tick-borne virus to which sheep and red grouse are particularly susceptible.

Moredun developed an effective vaccine in the 1930’s which was a game changer for many hill sheep farmers and grouse moor managers. However, this vaccine was recently withdrawn from manufacture. 

In recent years, ticks have been ever increasing and moving into areas where they have not historically been a problem. Subsequently, tick borne diseases have spread with the ticks and in the absence of a louping ill vaccine, serious losses have been reported in both sheep and red grouse.

Dr Beth Wells, Moredun, confirmed: 

“We have had many reports from our hill farming members that they have been losing sheep, mainly ewe hoggs to louping ill, some losing up to 25% of their replacement females which is a serious loss. We already have successful partnerships with GWCT and are delighted they have joined us in a new project to work towards a novel vaccine for louping ill control.”

Research carried out at Moredun, under the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme, has identified potential candidates for a new generation louping ill vaccine. This now requires further research to ensure these candidates cause an immune response in sheep and that this response will protect the animals against louping ill. 

GWCT have galvanised the generosity of Scottish estate owners, to allow this research to be carried out at Moredun this year.

Dr Adam Smith of GWCT said: 

“This important work will be vital in the fight against LIV, and GWCT is pleased to have been able to help in raising the funds for the Moredun’s work as a separate initiative to our core fundraising activity.”

Ian Duncan Miller, Chairmai of The Moredun Foundation added:

“This research illustrates the benefits of working in partnership and we are very pleased to be working alongside GWCT with this project, which is of extreme importance to both of our industries. This project takes Moredun back to its roots in tackling a really serious disease in the hills and uplands.”

The project is due to start this year and will be led by Principal Investigator, Dr David Griffiths, and Moredun's Head of Vaccines, Dr Alasdair Nisbet. If successful, the potential vaccine will be pushed towards commercialisation as soon as possible.