AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation has approved an extra $650,000 in funding for a collaborative project with CSIRO to fast-track further investigations into the development of a flystrike vaccine.
The research is building on early findings from the AWI funded flystrike vaccine research by CSIRO and the University of Melbourne to tackle flystrike, which is progressing well and is revealing important information.
AWI chairman Jock Laurie said it was an important investment on behalf of wool growers and promised to be a game changer.
“Growers have been asking for a flystrike vaccine for decades and now, thanks to modern technology and our improved understanding of the blowfly genome, the current CSIRO flystrike vaccine team has advanced further and faster than previous attempts,” he said.
The CSIRO team, led by senior scientist Tony Vuocolo has conducted more than 45 laboratory trials in the last two years to measure the impact of the sheep response on larval growth in vitro.
Early CSIRO findings show that some of these candidate vaccines are having effects on the blowfly by stunting maggot growth, with some dying.
AWI’s general manager for research, Dr Jane Littlejohn, is happy with the progress being made and said that AWI was eagerly anticipating this new research opportunity, with the board releasing funds from the AWI Discretionary Reserve for 12 months of supercharged formulation testing.
“Due to the time involved in researching, developing and taking a vaccine to market there won’t be a vaccine for growers’ use this time next year, but let’s hope CSIRO can take some giant steps towards this ultimate outcome in the next 12 months,” she said.
“We hope upcoming CSIRO testing will show the life cycle of the vaccine affected maggots will be severely compromised.
“Tackling flystrike with more tools and better integration of tools to manage this lethal condition is our number one research priority.”
AWI said a successful vaccine would be part of a wider flystrike management program including preserving the effectiveness of chemical prevention.
The University of Melbourne’s use of whole genome sequencing data from selected blowfly populations is aiding the development of the flystrike vaccine, and also in building a detailed understanding of Australian blowfly populations.
A three-year project by UoM to sample the DNA of field strains of blowflies from across the country, involving the collection of more than 2000 samples from 210 locations, recently concluded, and analysis of the results of the DNA testing is underway.
Dr Trent Perry, Senior Research Associate and Group Leader School of BioSciences at University of Melbourne said industry co-operation had been crucial in providing the numerous fly samples from around Australia.
“We are very grateful to the many agronomists, growers, grower groups and personnel at AWI who all assisted in the advertisement of the collection/passing the word around and in the collection of many of the samples both in blowfly traps or from fly struck sheep that were critical for our project,” he said.
“We have already been able to identify significant differences in the blowfly populations of Tasmania and Western Australia to those in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia – and with the additional samples from all states this season, but in particular we were able to fill in gaps in SA, Queensland and central and northern NSW, and now should be able to confirm how distinct the blowfly populations around sheep properties in southern QLD are from other regions.”
“Thanks to the many maggot samples sent in by growers, we will also have a significant dataset to examine whether there are particular genetic variants in blowfly populations that are more likely to strike sheep in comparison to the wider blowfly population.”