Gastrointestinal parasites infect all species of grazing livestock, but are becoming increasingly resistant to the anthelmintics used to treat infection.

Now scientists at the University of Glasgow have been awarded funds from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) strategic Longer and Larger grant (sLoLa) to help tackle the problem of anthelmintic resistance.

Resistance to anthelmintics has developed rapidly in the worms of sheep and goats.

Diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance is difficult and it remains unclear how resistance arises and spreads in parasite populations.

Researchers will use new sequencing technologies to examine the genomes of parasitic nematodes to investigate the genetic changes that confer drug resistance.

The aim of the project is to develop genetic markers for early diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance and to model the spread of resistance under different treatment strategies, as well as to use the genome as a tool for vaccine discovery.

The project will focus on the two most economically important parasitic nematodes of sheep, Haemonchus 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.

Eileen Devaney, who leads the UK-wide team of scientists, said: “This project brings together an excellent team of researchers to address an important problem in food security.

“It builds on the long-held reputation of the University of Glasgow in veterinary research, recognised in the recent Research Excellence Framework as having the highest quality research of any vet school in the UK, and parasitology in particular.”

Prof Devaney added: “It will allow scientists in the Institute with expertise in modelling and population genomics to work alongside those studying parasite genomes and mechanisms of drug resistance”.

The total award is £2.9m, of which £1.35m will come to the University of Glasgow.

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