Parasitologists at Moredun address the urgent need to maintain control over the parasitic diseases which are endemic in ruminants in Scotland (and worldwide). We currently work on a number of parasitic diseases that have both economic and welfare implications to the livestock industry in the UK and worldwide. A number of the parasites worked on at Moredun are also important zoonotic pathogens that may cause disease in humans.
Our expertise in this area is currently being utilised on research projects which address the following issues:
- Gut roundworm infections (gastrointestinal nematodes) are a major impediment to cattle and sheep livestock production efficiency. Parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE), caused by infection of the gut with parasitic nematodes, is both a financial and a welfare concern. Current control is achieved by routine dosing of susceptible stock with drugs (anthelmintics) but this is threatened by the development and spread of drug resistant parasites. Our expertise is used to help develop management strategies to conserve the efficacy of our current anthelmintic families.
- Protozoan parasites can cause abortion in sheep and cattle, whilst others cause acute outbreaks of gastroenteritis and some have zoonotic potential. Moredun conducts research into the control and prevention of diseases of livestock that are caused by protozoan parasites which include Toxoplasma gondii and different Cryptosporidium species (both are also important zoonotic pathogens that can cause disease in humans), as well as, Neospora caninum (the most frequently diagnosed cause of bovine abortion in UK).
- Sheep scab or psoroptic mange, caused by infestation with the parasitic mite Psoroptes ovis has considerable financial and welfare implications for the sheep farmer. Research at Moredun seeks to understand the mechanisms of immunity to the sheep scab mite, Psoroptes ovis, with a view to developing effective vaccines and diagnostic tests based on sound scientific rationale.
- Surveillance data shows an increase in the incidence of liver fluke disease in sheep and cattle in Scotland in the last decade. The condition is being reported out-with traditional risk periods and in previously fluke-free areas. Fluke impacts on milk production, growth rate of beef and lambs, fertility in ewes and, ultimately, the economic viability of production units. Moredun works to increase understanding of this parasite and improve diagnosis and control.
Our work is focused on the need to sustain the present control methods using improved on-farm management strategies and to devise and implement alternatives with vaccination a prime objective. These objectives are supported by the use of the latest technological advances (genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics) to provide definition of the host/parasite relationship at the molecular level.
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