A new science collaboration has won £2.9m research funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scottish Government.

Research could find new livestock treatment strategies.

The BUG consortium: building upon the genome: using Haemonchus contortus genomic resources to develop novel interventions to control endemic gastrointestinal parasites, has been handed the cash to tackle drug resistance in important parasitic worms affecting livestock.

Led by the University of Glasgow, the project also involves scientists from the Moredun Research Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Bristol.

The 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.

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.

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