AN $11 million plan to create a world-first vaccine for certain types of sheep worms has been hatched, but the discovery phase for a prototype is expected to take five years to complete.
The University of New England today said it will help solve one of the costliest problems for Australian sheep producers through an $11-million international research collaboration aimed at developing a vaccine for parasitic gastrointestinal worms such as the black scour worm and the brown stomach worm.
A world-first sheep vaccine for the Barber’s Pole worm, Barbervax, was launched in 2014, but UNE Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology, Nicholas Andronicos, said this did not protect sheep against other endemic species of gastrointestinal parasites that cause scouring.
“Therefore, if the Moredun Research Institute, University of Glasgow and University of New England research team is successful in developing an effective scour worm vaccine against black scour worm (T. colubriformis) and brown stomach worm (T. circumcincta), then this would be a world-first prototype vaccine against these scouring nematode pathogens,” he said.
With parasitism costing the Australian sheep and goat industry more than $450-million annually, Associate Professor Andronicos said an effective vaccine is sorely needed.
“By reducing inefficient practices like this through the development of a vaccine, we will be able to ensure the industry is operating as sustainably as possible,” he said.
Chemical treatments are currently the go-to for controlling gastrointestinal worm infections; however, the risk of parasitic resistance means it is not always reliable. The new vaccine aimed to eliminate the risk of parasitic resistance associated with current chemical treatments, bolstering the industry on an international scale, UNE said.
“We are excited to work with the Moredun Research Institute and our partners to combine our expertise in parasitology, immunology, and vaccine formulation to develop a long-awaited solution to this global problem,” Associate Professor Andronicos said.
The project has been co-funded by each of the partners, with matched funding from the Australian Government, through the Meat & Livestock Australia Donor Company. The discovery phase for the prototype vaccine is expected to take five years to complete.