Moredun makes major breakthrough in the war against worms

Published on: Jun 12, 2013

Scientists at the Moredun Research Institute in Scotland have made a major breakthrough in the battle to prevent and control parasitic worm infections by successfully protecting sheep using vaccination.

The Moredun team has recently published results published in the journal Vaccine, and the paper reports the most successful attempt yet to protect animals against worms using a recombinant vaccine, giving hope for a sustainable control strategy that does not rely on drugs, according to a June 11 announcement.

Parasitic worms (nematodes) have profound effects on human and animal health and welfare worldwide: more than 1 billion people, primarily in the developing world, are affected by soil-transmitted nematodes, the announcement said. Infection of livestock with closely related parasitic nematodes can have devastating effects on health and production, affecting food security in developed and developing regions.

Despite decades of intensive research, the development of vaccines against these pathogens has been unsuccessful.

Dr. Alasdair Nisbet, who is heading up the research team at Moredun, said, "Currently, these pathogens are controlled using drugs. However, multi-drug resistant isolates are being reported with such frequency that development of a vaccine against this species is now a research priority."

The approach taken by the Moredun team involved identifying a number of key proteins that the worm produces, some of which enable it to escape the immune response and to survive and multiply within the animal. By immunizing sheep with these key proteins, the research team showed that the vaccinated animals had significantly reduced numbers of adult worms and eggs shed into the environment.

The research article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.05.026.