Moredun Research Institute has announced that it will lead a multi-institutional partnership to develop a vaccine for on-farm worm control in sheep.

The partnership includes the University of Glasgow, the University of New England, Australia, and the James Hutton Institute.

This project will be co-funded by each of the partners with matched funding from the Australian government to a total value of just over £6 million over five years.

Project lead from Moredun Research Institute, Dr. Alasdair Nisbet, said: “We are delighted to be able to lead this international team to develop our nematode vaccine technology further and push towards a commercial product to help control this major issue in the sheep industry in the UK and beyond.”

Sheep parasites

Parasitism by worms that live in the gut of animals has a major impact on animal production worldwide, Moredun Research Institute said.

These infections affect the health and welfare of sheep, and the cost of parasitism in the UK is estimated at approximately £4/lamb through reduced weight gain and treatment costs.

“This inefficiency in production also impacts greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, affecting our ability to reach net zero targets unless we intervene,” Moredun said.

Resistance to chemical treatments in parasite control programs undermines control options on-farm, it said.

“To allow a sustainable future for sheep farming, vaccines need to be developed.

“Although much progress is being achieved in this area, much of it funded by significant investment from the Scottish government, UKRI and others, development of a commercial worm vaccine is a long-term project.

“However, by combining their expertise in parasitology, immunology, and vaccine formulation, along with recent technological advances, the work of the partnership will significantly increase the chances of success.”