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Moredun ISSUE 20 | AUTUMN/WINTER 2020


Equine Grass Sickness: past, present and future Working with farmers to investigate parasite control 6th World One Health Congress goes virtual


Director’s comment

In this Issue: p1-3 News p4

Interdisciplinary collaboration leads to new early sheep scab test


New studentship at Moredun will work with farmers to investigate sheep parasite control


Equine Grass Sickness – Past, Present and Future


£0.56M grant to tackle toxoplasmosis


Out and About


Spotlight - Meet Moredun’s newest recruits


Centenary - Moredun bus completed!

The temperature is dropping and the nights are drawing in, so what better time to sit and catch up with all the latest news from across the Moredun Group? Our main feature this issue follows the journey of our Equine Grass Sickness Research Fund from its beginnings in the 1920s through to the present day. We also have exciting news regarding a new Fellowship and highlight some of our recent fundraising efforts – including a 26.2 mile hike in various locations across Scotland, for which we have currently raised over £3000! Take a look on pages 6 and 7. As a credit to all of their hard work, two significant grants have recently been awarded to Moredun scientists help further their research. The first is an interdisciplinary study with University of Sao Paulo, Brazil into one of the world’s most common parasites, Toxoplasma gondii, and the second is an innovative project developing a novel way of studying poultry red mites. Find out more on pages 8 and 9.

A new PhD student has recently joined us to help identify the scale of anthelmintic-related issues faced by hill and upland sheep farmers by gathering information from both farmers and veterinary practices. True to our symbiotic relationship, the project are looking to recruit flock owners (farm or croft) and vets over the next 6 months to work alongside scientists for this very important study. You can read more details about the project and how to get involved on page 5. Finally, we are very excited to announce that the new Moredun mobile laboratory and outreach bus that we mentioned in Issue 19 is now fully complete! It is parked up at its new home in the Pentlands Science Park, ready for its new adventures in science and education. Beautifully decorated with the cartoons that star in our very successful livestock health animation series (thanks once again to the amazing talents of Blobina Animations!), it will certainly catch the eye of the public on its travels. Find out more on page 13. Though our day-to-day lives are still suffering from the disruption caused by COVID-19 our scientists are just as busy as ever, carrying out industry-leading research with some fantastic results and with some very exciting projects in the pipeline. We thank you for your support.

Julie Fitzpatrick Scientific Director and Chief Executive

Moredun Magazine Moredun magazine is produced twice a year and is available free of charge. Designed and Produced by Moredun Communications Centre ©2020. All images, unless otherwise stated, are ©Moredun. To subscribe, contact: Moredun Communications Team, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PZ

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

Comments, ideas, suggestions? Get in touch and let us know. Please contact: Moredun Communications Team, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PZ tel: +44 (0)131 445 5111 fax:+44 (0)131 445 6111 email: web: @MoredunComms

The Moredun Foundation is a company limited by guarantee, registered in Scotland No. SC151865. The Moredun Foundation is a charity registered in Scotland, No: SC022515 Address: Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PZ Cover image: Photo: © Alistair Kerr 2020


Control the Crypto The parasite Cryptosporidium parvum is a zoonotic pathogen that can be spread between animals and humans causing disease. It is one of the most frequently diagnosed diarrhoea causing pathogens in young calves in the UK, as well as one of the top four pathogens causing diarrhoea in young children in developing countries globally, where it has been related to longer term problems with growth and development. Infected calves will shed billions of parasite eggs in their faeces and these eggs can survive in the environment for long periods of time

Moredun have produced a short animation in collaboration with animator Selina Wagner of Ping Creates to join the others in their successful series, outlining the management tools available to farmers to help control Cryptosporidium on farm, which also have the benefits of reducing the amount of the parasite in the environment and the risk to human health. New animation with a One Health message.

The animation, which was funded by the Moredun being a source of infection for other calves and

Foundation and the Biotechnology and Biological

also to people. It is clear then that controlling

Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is informative

this parasite is important not only in terms

and fun to watch and can be viewed at:

of animal health, welfare and production

efficiency, but in public health as well.


Working in collaboration with NHS to help tackle COVID-19 Helping with a pandemic was not what we were expecting to be doing in our centenary year in 2020, but it exemplifies the spirit and ethos of all Moredun staff to step forward in a time of crisis to do what we can to help with the national effort. Moredun staff are very used to working with a range of different infectious agents that cause livestock diseases and they have the necessary high containment laboratory facilities and skilled staff to be able to work with viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Together, Moredun and SRUC Veterinary Services provide internationally recognised diagnostic surveillance for livestock diseases in Scotland and have the capacity to deliver high throughput testing. Therefore we got together with colleagues at SRUC Veterinary Services to offer help and extra capacity to the NHS for testing of swab samples to detect the virus using molecular techniques. This involved a huge amount of work to re-purpose and fit out the high containment CL-3 laboratories, train our

volunteer staff, and prepare all the required assessments and operational procedures in a matter of weeks. We were driven on by the daily news updates on the spread of the virus and the need to provide more testing capacity. As fast as possible, the Moredun/SRUC testing capability was set up and validated to ensure compliance to NHS diagnostic standards and full integration into NHS systems. This was a significant project with staff across the whole organisation stepping up and working very hard to establish a new “testing node” in support of NHS which went live in June 2020. We are very proud of all the staff involved and that Moredun and SRUCVS were the first national veterinary centre to help NHS with testing for SARS-Cov-2. Efforts such as these show how effective a One Health approach can be to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and could provide capacity in the future to help tackle other potential zoonotic diseases. Scientists at Moredun have also been involved in several research projects to increase our knowledge and understanding of transmission of SARSCov-2 and immune responses induced by the virus.

Dr Ingolfur Johannessen, Director of NHS Lothian Laboratory Medicine and Clinical Lead for the Scottish National Laboratory Medicine Programme said, “We are delighted to work with the Moredun Research Institute and SRUC in a collaborative partnership approach to COVID-19 virus PCR testing, which builds on a template that NHS Scotland has created for such novel approaches in its efforts to expand national testing capacity and ensure resilience. The partnership with Moredun and SRUC expands that approach even further, supporting both NHS Lothian’s test requirements as well as overall national test capacity”.

Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer Scotland said, “I am delighted to see this example of One Health in action. This combined effort between the world class team at Moredun and SRUC has shown how vets and medics can work together to support the NHS and combat this pandemic”.

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020


News Moredun and Orkney Livestock Association announce an important partnership Orkney Livestock Association (OLA) have signed up to partner Moredun to give their members access to research outputs, knowledge, skills and expertise generated at Moredun OLA members will be eligible to apply for the annual Moredun Foundation Award Scheme and will be able to contact Moredun directly to get further advice on particular disease issues. Orkney is represented at Moredun by wellknown retired vet Willie Stewart, who is the Chair of Moredun’s North of Scotland Regional Advisors Board and informs Moredun of the particular disease problems challenging Orkney livestock. Through Willie’s initiative Moredun has taken part in several meetings and farm events on Orkney. Beth Wells, from Moredun, said “Through these meetings we have been fortunate to meet many of Orkney’s livestock farmers, who are well known for their high quality beef production and we are delighted to be developing a closer working collaboration with OLA, which will be of huge benefit to both of our organisations.” Willie Stewart commented “The Moredun Research Institute is a world leader in the development of livestock vaccines, animal disease tests and control plans. I believe that OLA representing the cattle industry in Orkney can have a strong association with Moredun in the future.” OLA is a farmer-led organisation aimed at improving the health of Orkney’s cattle herds. The scheme was officially launched in February 2001 with a programme to eradicate BVD and a Johne’s eradication scheme followed in November 2008. OLA is a sub-group of HiHealth Herdcare which is a national cattle health scheme. Karen Johnston, OLA, commented “We are delighted and very honoured to give our members the opportunity to benefit from


Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

expert information and support from such a prestigious and well respected organisation. We are looking forward to seeing how this partnership progresses and the benefits it brings to Orkney farmers.”

New Chairman announced We welcome Sir Muir Russell as new Chairman of the Moredun Research Institute, who replaces Lord Professor Trees. Lord Professor Trees retired at the 2020 AGM after serving his term as Chairman. Paying tribute to Lord Trees’ dedication over that time, Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, commented: “I have really enjoyed working with Lord Trees over the last years during my time as Director and Chief Executive of Moredun. Lord Trees has contributed to all aspects of Moredun’s success and has provided me personally with unstinting support and advice.”

Sir Muir Russell.


Honorary Moredun Fellowships awarded The Moredun Foundation was delighted to award two honorary fellowships to David Danson and David Smith at its AGM held on Thursday 3rd of September in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Moredun Group. David Danson graduated from Liverpool Veterinary School in 1969 and after a short time in general practice has spent most of his career in industry. He was Director of Global Marketing for Mallinckrodt Animal Health Inc in Chicago, Managing Director, then Chairman of Biokema SA in Lausanne and between 1998 and 2005 was Group Chief Executive of UA Group plc. He served as a non-executive director of Quality Meat Scotland for 3 years where he chaired both the Audit and Remuneration Committees and was a member of the Scottish Executive’s Agriculture Strategy Group. He is currently a Non-Executive Director of Eco Animal Health Group plc, a

member of the Council of the Royal Veterinary College and Chairman of RVC Developments Ltd. He joined the board of Moredun Scientific in 2000 and stayed until 2019 and made a significant contribution to help grow the business and success of the company. Dr. David Smith graduated from the University of Glasgow with a veterinary degree in 1971 and joined Moredun later that year to study for a PhD on immunity to a respiratory virus which infects sheep. In 1975 David turned his attention to studying how sheep become immune to worm infections. More recently he has been successful in the development of a vaccine for Haemonchus contortus, globally the most important worm affecting sheep and goats worldwide. The development of a commercial vaccine against worm infections is a significant breakthrough as the mainstay method to control worm infections in livestock is through drug treatments and there is a growing problem with increasing levels of drug resistance across the world. Dr. Smith is a Director of Wormvax Australia, the

commercial company set up to produce and distribute the vaccine in Australia. The vaccine is now sold in Australia and South Africa, with work ongoing to expand markets to South America, Canada and New Zealand At the AGM Ian Duncan Millar, Chairman of the Moredun Foundation said, “It is a huge honour to be able to recognise the contribution of people who really have made a difference. This year’s recipients have done just that in very different ways. David Danson by being a board member of Moredun Scientific during a period of considerable growth in business and reputation, achieved in no small part by David’s contribution through his international knowledge, experience and sharp wit. In a very different way David Smith has dedicated his life to the understanding of sheep gut worms, and his achievement in producing and marketing the first vaccine against one of these parasites is truly worthy of recognition, and a wonderful example of the excellence of our Moredun science and scientists”.

2020 Christmas cards now on sale We have a beautiful new design for this year’s Christmas card available to purchase from our online shop. Titled “Sheep in the Lane”, it depicts a flock of sheep being herded down a snowy country lane, accompanied by a pheasant friend. Our previous two designs, “A Country Christmas” and “Snow Day” are still available to buy, so why not mix them up a bit? Our 2021 pocket diary is also now available to purchase. Visit our online shop for more details:

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020


Research Interdisciplinary collaboration leads to new early sheep scab test

The highly sensitive technique, created by a team of researchers from SEFARI consortium members, the Moredun Research Institute and the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, exploits a protein named Pso EIP-1 to detect asymptomatic infestations with very high levels of accuracy. Importantly, it will enable differentiation between vaccinated and infested sheep. Dr Alasdair Nisbet, Head of Vaccine and Diagnostic development at Moredun, says: “The technical breakthrough that led to this development was a result of a long-standing, productive and highly collaborative relationship between the research groups at these two SEFARI Institutes.” Sheep scab, or Psoroptic mange, is caused by an infestation with the parasitic mite, Psoroptes ovis, resulting in a severe skin irritation in livestock. The disease is highly contagious and has profound financial and welfare implications in areas where it is endemic worldwide.

The isolated diagnostic proteins.


Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

Photo | Prof. Neil Sargison, R(D)SVS

A new diagnostic technique has been developed by Scottish scientists to help in the early detection of sheep scab, marking a significant development towards improved monitoring and control of the parasite. This was made possible through an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration looking at new methods of protein expression and production.

Sheep showing classic signs of clinical sheep scab.

Rapid and accurate diagnosis is essential to help control this parasitic disease. Conventional diagnosis involves timeconsuming and expensive analysis of the skin or wool of the sheep under a microscope, which lacks specificity and sensitivity. It also often fails to detect asymptomatic cases, which are responsible for spreading the parasite. To overcome this issue, the team looked at methods of detecting the mite before symptoms occur. They discovered that early infestation by the mite triggers an immune response in the sheep, which leads to the production of antibodies associated with particular proteins that are excreted by the mite. One particular protein, termed Pso o 2, was found to specifically induce antibodies in sheep blood in the early stages of an infestation and before the appearance of symptoms. It was shown that Pso o 2 is also an excellent vaccine candidate as it triggers antibody production in the sheep, offering a degree of protection against mite infestation. “Although Pso o 2 is also a promising candidate for the prototype sheep scab vaccine being developed at Moredun, it cannot be used both diagnostically and in a vaccine as vaccinated sheep would give a positive test even if they weren’t infested.” says Dr Stewart Burgess, Principal Investigator at Moredun.

However, the recent research between the Institutes has identified, characterised and produced an alternative protein, Pso EIP-1, which can detect asymptomatic infestations with very high levels of accuracy. It also distinguishes between infested animals and those that have previously been vaccinated with Pso o 2. “Pso-EIP-1 overcomes this problem by allowing us to differentiate between infested and vaccinated animals, without compromising on the sensitivity and specificity of the diagnostic test,” continues Dr Burgess. ”It will provide us with a new diagnostic antigen that can be used once the sheep scab vaccine is commercially available.” Dr Andrew Love, a Principal Investigator and research leader at the James Hutton Institute, commented: “This is a prime example how interdisciplinary research which straddles animal health, immunology, and biotechnology can be harnessed to solve real life issues such as the monitoring and future treatment of pernicious livestock pathogens, including Psoroptic mange. It is a testament to the strength of the collaboration between institutes.” The published article can be viewed online in Parasite Immunology: pim.12788

Drawing by Eilidh Geddes


New studentship at Moredun will work with farmers to investigate sheep parasite control An EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership PhD studentship has been awarded to Moredun to investigate ways to optimise parasite control in hill and upland sheep. The four-year studentship, which has been awarded to Eilidh Geddes, is entitled “A Holistic approach to internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms” and will be supervised by researchers from Moredun Research Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. In Scotland, there are approximately 15,000 hill and upland farms with sheep, representing around 60% of the whole sector. Despite these numbers, sheep production on these farms is becoming increasingly demanding for a number of reasons, including parasite infections. The main parasites that affect grazing sheep and lambs are roundworms and liver fluke, which are usually controlled by the use of anthelmintics. However, both of these parasites have developed resistance to these drugs, threatening the ability of farmers to sustainably control these infections on their farm.

The aim of the project is to identify the scale of anthelmintic-related issues faced by hill and upland sheep farmers by gathering questionnaire information from both farmers and veterinary practices. In parallel, focus farms will be identified, their parasite challenge assessed and their approach to internal parasite control monitored over a full production year. After initial data collection and analysis, customised options for parasite control will be proposed, implemented and monitored on the focus farms over the next production year. Once implemented, economic and performance data will be collected to analyse the impact of improved disease control at farm level. This will allow the development of practical recommendations on how to optimise internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms. Dr Fiona Kenyon, Principal Investigator at the Moredun Research Institute and Project Leader commented “We are delighted that we were successful with our funding application, and have recruited an excellent student in Eilidh. Eilidh’s project will focus on parasite control in the often neglected upland and hill farms. We hope to deliver optimised parasite control for our focus farmers, while collecting

data from these farms which will be highly relevant for many upland/hill sheep farmers across the UK.” While Eilidh Geddes, PhD student, says “I am really looking forward to getting started with this project. I hope it can provide a practical and sustainable approach to parasite control for hill and upland flocks for the focus farms, and to inform the scale of resistance to treatments faced in these areas.” The project will be looking to recruit farmers to the project over the next 6 months. We are looking for farmers and vet practices, in hill and upland areas, who would be willing to complete a short questionnaire for us. We would also like to identify about 10 focus farmers willing to take part by sharing faecal samples from their animals and information about their farms. Focus farmers will gain information on the parasites present on their farm, the anthelmintic resistance status of their flock and advice on how best to treat their flock in the future. Anyone who is interested please contact Fiona Kenyon ( or Eilidh Geddes ( for more information.

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020


Research Equine Grass Sickness – Past, Present and Future Moredun’s centenary year has certainly been an unusual one, and despite (or maybe because of) the constraints imposed by the pandemic, Moredun and The Equine Grass Sickness Fund took the opportunity to strengthen the historic ties between them and take a look at this most enigmatic of diseases in a radically different way. Moredun and Equine Grass Sickness – a potted history Equine Grass Sickness was first recognised at an army remount camp in Angus in 1907, and over the next decade the huge losses sustained in the working horse population gave great impetus to the search for the cause of the disease. From 1923 to 1949 research at the Animal Diseases Research Association, later to become Moredun, included investigations into a myriad of potential causes, and many were eliminated. Changes in post war agricultural practices, and the introduction of the tractor, meant a reduction in the number of working

The research update is available from the Moredun and EGSF websites.

horses on farms, and interest in the disease waned. It was not until the 1970s and the increasing popularity of pleasure horses that the research effort began again in earnest. In 1971 Moredun scientist, John Gilmour, began

research into the epidemiology hoping that this would give a clue to the cause. Over the next 21 years he conducted many studies into grass sickness, becoming a world authority on the disease, before his untimely death. In 1980 Mrs Anne Wilson started the Grass Sickness Fund to raise money for research after losing her favourite Connemara mare, and research at Moredun continued to benefit from the support of the Grass Sickness Fund for almost ten years. In 1988 the Animal Diseases Research Association, the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS) and the Grass Sickness Fund were brought together to launch what we now know as The Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund. The Fund is governed by a fundraising and scientific review committee, which consists of scientists, vets and horse owners, who drive the direction of research, and vital fundraising activities. In August 2020 Moredun and EGSF published a research update, with the support of the British Horse Society and World Horse Welfare. Co-authored by the key scientists in EGS research, it provides a summary of recent work, including the continuing work into mycotoxins at the Royal (Dick) Vet, Clostridium botulinum and the vaccine trial. You can download this research update from the Moredun website: uk/research/diseases/equine-grass-sickness Despite these interesting and productive research studies, the cause of the disease remains a mystery, and it was decided to fund a three year Research Fellowship to breathe new life into the research effort.

EGS Fellowship Project This is a multi-disciplinary project, involving a full time research fellow at Moredun, supported by specialists from different scientific disciplines. The aims of the project, expected to start early 2021, are:

The original Moredun “bus” conducting field research into EGS.


Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

1. Develop a nationwide case database and biobank of related samples. One of the problems identified, is that there is no accessible source of EGS samples for use in scientific research. Together with major UK equine charities, equine vets and horse owners, we propose a team effort to build a robust and enduring resource to inform future EGS studies. Improved case reporting, with associated samples, (both horse related and environmental)


“Thanks to the valiant efforts of EGSF supporters over the years, the Fund is in a position to give the green ‘starting light’ to the Fellowship project, and acknowledges Moredun’s generosity in providing a stimulating base in the Moredun Research Fellowship Programme, with support from internationally renowned research scientists.”

Working farm horse suffering from EGS.

will allow the disease to be studied from different angles. 2. Literature Review: a systematic review of the many research projects done to date to draw together the known facts about the disease. 3. Crucible Event: the literature review will form the basis for an interdisciplinary crucible event, to draw together scientists to examine the problem from different angles and put forward proposals for new investigative projects. In time we hope the fellowship will become a hub for EGS research projects, to allow research to progress simultaneously along different lines of enquiry. 4. Knowledge Exchange: A key task for the Fellow will be to communicate progress in research back to the grass roots, so that horse owners are informed about the latest developments. This will be via website updates, regular newsletters and KE events.

Funding Thanks to the valiant efforts of EGSF supporters over the years, the Fund is in a position to give the green ‘starting light’ to the Fellowship project, and acknowledges Moredun’s generosity in providing a stimulating base in the Moredun Research Fellowship Programme, with support from internationally renowned research scientists. To really allow the project to flourish, however, a concerted fundraising effort is vital. Additional funds are needed to develop the biobank, which is estimated will cost around £26k per year, and to fund research outputs in the near future. Each research project in itself can cost several hundred thousand pounds. We are delighted to be working with the British Horse Society on the fundraising

effort, and will be applying for research grants as hypotheses come forward. An extremely important point for potential awarding bodies is evidence of working with other organisations and, above all the support of the general public, which makes successful applications more likely.

Virtual London Marathon To help get the fundraising effort off to a good start, members of Moredun’s Communications Team and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund decided to celebrate the launch of the project by hiking the Virtual London Marathon. Having pulled this project together remotely, it seemed fitting that we each did our own route, all in our own areas of Scotland. This saw Beth Wells hiking 26.2 miles across the Cairngorms on the Dava Way, plus a few miles to get back to her house! Lee Innes took on the Union Canal, walking from Falkirk back to Edinburgh, and Amy Tyndall hiked from Penicuik House to Haddington along the old railway, with a few detours to get round sections that were under water from

the recent heavy rain. Hazel Rice and Kate Thomson decided on ‘half each’! Hazel sensibly split her walk into two expeditions around Penicuik House and the old railway, whilst Kate opted to walk along the Pentland Way from Ninemileburn to Little Sparta, taking in the remote hill top Covenanters Grave along the way. The Team were astonished by the support from family, friends and colleagues, raising over £3,000 to date. Our fundraising page is still open for donations at: TheMoredunFoundation

How can you help? There are many ways you can help. This may be financially, by making a donation, organising a fundraiser, buying our merchandise, or leaving a legacy. It can also be in kind, by reporting cases, submitting samples and acting as a local ambassador. Visit for more information.

EGS survivor Alfie and his owner, Vicky Sinski.

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020


Research £0.56M grant awarded to tackle one of the world’s most common parasites An interdisciplinary team from the UK and Brazil have been awarded a grant worth over half a million pounds to help determine how disease caused by one of the most common parasitic infections in the world progresses in warm blooded animals, and how it is transmitted in food. Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a parasite that can infect all warm-blooded animals, with up to one third of humanity potentially having been exposed. In particular, it can cause severe disease in pregnant women and those who are immune-compromised, and in sheep it is a major cause of abortion. People and animals can become infected through ingestion of parasite eggs (oocysts) from cat faeces, ingestion of undercooked meat containing parasite cysts or from mother to foetus during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis is now recognised as one of the most important foodborne diseases worldwide. The joint three-year grant from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (BBSRCFAPESP) will greatly improve understanding of foodborne transmission and the infectious nature of T. gondii, and will aid related future research in vaccine design and drug discovery. There is huge variation between different strains of the parasite regarding disease severity and T. gondii strains from South America are known to cause serious disease compared to strains found in other parts of the world. The reasons why some T. gondii strains cause more severe disease than others are not known and it is vital to develop new laboratory models to improve our understanding of the infection process and the critical factors in involved in determining virulence.


Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

The project, led by the Moredun Research Institute working in collaboration with colleagues at University of São Paulo in Brazil, Newcastle University and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland will use cells and 3D “mini-guts” (fully functioning, lab-grown gut tissue) from different host species to develop a more relevant, host-specific system for determining the severity of infection by T. gondii and predicting how the disease will progress. The project will also assess the prevalence of T. gondii in a large study of retail meat samples in São Paulo, and the level of infectiousness of any parasites isolated from meat products can be assessed using the mini-guts to help determine the risk to public health. Dr Clare Hamilton, Moredun Research Institute and Project lead said “This exciting, collaborative project will not only improve our understanding of Toxoplasma virulence in different hosts which could help aid future

vaccine development and control strategies, it also has the potential to develop new culture based systems to assess infectivity and virulence of different parasite strains. I am delighted to be working with all of our partners and look forward to seeing the results of the next 3 years.” Dr Hilda Fátima de Jesus Pena, University of São Paulo, Brazil, said “Brazil is considered a hotspot for T. gondii genetic diversity. This diversity is linked with a high occurrence of ocular toxoplasmosis in some regions of the country and severe cases of congenital toxoplasmosis. In general, seroprevalence to the parasite is high all over the country both in human and animal populations. This project will be a great opportunity to investigate T. gondii strains and their viability in different types of meat consumed by the population of São Paulo, the largest city of South America in terms of its population and economy.”


Novel study of poultry red mites awarded key funding Researchers have established that poultry red mites will feed on goose blood through a disposable synthetic skinlike membrane.

Poultry red mites cause major animal welfare and economic problems for the egg-producing industry.

A grant worth almost half a million pounds has been awarded to the Moredun Research Institute to develop a novel way of studying poultry red mites which greatly reduces the number of hens required. Poultry red mites are parasites which need to feed on the blood of a bird to survive, develop and reproduce. Infestation of hen houses with poultry red mites is a major animal welfare and economic problem for the egg-producing industry internationally, and multiple groups worldwide are working to develop new control methods. To supply mites for any research programme, donor hens must be infested with the parasite to provide sufficient numbers of mites for subsequent laboratory or field studies. The aim of the research funded by the £483,000 grant from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is to establish a laboratory colony of red mites and develop a novel feeding method which removes the need to use infested hens. Through a series of preliminary experiments, researchers have established that

poultry red mites will feed on goose blood through a disposable synthetic skin-like membrane. Live geese are particularly suited to be blood donors for this task as they can supply approximately 30 times more blood than hens in a single donation. The donor geese are looked after and cared for under very high welfare standards in a dedicated blood-donor flock. By using this system, it has been deduced that the number of hens used for the maintenance of poultry red mites could be reduced by 90% per year. In addition, welfare standards will be increased by removing the need for hens to be continuously infested with the parasites for prolonged periods. This feeding method, designed by Moredun researchers in conjunction with Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland (BioSS), is both sustainable for the routine culturing of mites and can be scaled-up for the production of the large numbers of mites required for trials when required. Dr Francesca Nunn, who this year received the prestigious International 3Rs Prize from the NC3Rs for work related to this study, says: “This is an exciting project that not only has the potential to seriously reduce the numbers of

experimental hens use in poultry red mite colony maintenance, but also increase our understanding of the feeding behaviour and population dynamics that will be greatly useful in future control strategies against this important parasite. I am thrilled to be working with the NC3Rs once more.” Dr Alasdair Nisbet, Head of Vaccine and Diagnostic development and Principal Investigator of the study says: “I’m delighted to be able to continue our work on reducing the numbers of hens used for poultry red mite research and refining our approaches in this area in partnership with the NC3Rs. We look forward to another 3 years of a high level of impact in these areas.”

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020


Out and About OnFARM podcast Launched in January 2020, OnFARM showcases rural enterprise, community, creativity, charity, history and much more.

individuals and organisations that improve, encourage, benefit, or otherwise advance

Matthew Lambert, Sales Director of Lambert and Dyson Ltd

Will Charlton, Arable Marketing Manager at Limagrain UK

Penny Montgomerie, Nuffield Farming Scholar and SAYFC chief exec

Geordie Dun and Willie Hill, Campbell of Oxton Hauliers

In lieu of this year’s Royal Highland Show - a staple in our agricultural calendar which was sadly cancelled due to Coronavirus - OnFARM have been running a series of podcasts dedicated to the work of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS). Moredun was set up 100 years ago with the support of RHASS and the National Farmers Union of Scotland. Professor Lee Innes was interviewed for the 8th episode of the RHASS specials and talks about the plans we had to celebrate our Centenary at the Royal Highland Show. Ever since it got its Royal Charter in 1784, RHASS has been committed to helping

rural Scotland. It does this through grants,

Bigger Science Festival

Not out, but still about

scholarships, awards and other support. This work is funded in large part from money raised at the Royal Highland Show, and through events and venue hire on the show ground at Ingliston. This episode of OnFARM explores the scope of this charitable work and finds out what RHASS needs from its supporters after the 2020 show’s cancellation and loss of millions of pounds due to Coronavirus.

uk/rhass-8-awards-support Moredun is currently taking part in further these will be going out just before christmas...

Alan Laidlaw, RHASS Chief Executive

not allowed. In August, the National Sheep Association ran a two-day virtual series of events on the Celebration of Sheep Farming. As part of an evening event focussing on biosecurity, Dr Beth Wells presented on the importance of quarantine in “What do I do with my sheep when I get them home?” A further webinar took place on 24th

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

On Farm podcasts to mark our centenary and

as our more usual ways of communicating are

Biggar Science Festival turned virtual this year. As part of a “Science on the Sofa” series of talks, Prof Lee Innes was asked to give a presentation to a keen Zoom audience on “Parasites: Friend or Foe?” on 10th September. She discussed with attendees the fascinating relationship we have with the many parasites that live inside us and why some of them can be deadly and some may actually be beneficial to us.

You can listen to our featured episode here:

Also in this episode, you can hear from:

We are continuing to contribute to webinars


November with the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland and NSA on Iceberg Diseases with Drs Chris Cousens and Craig Watkins. All of these webinars have attracted large audiences and were recorded for future viewing. Drs Philip Skuce, Stewart Burgess and

• ‘Liver fluke in sheep & cattle’ - Welsh Vet Science Centre CPD • AgInspire podcast interview with Tommy the Vet (listen at: • ‘Liver fluke control in sheep & cattle: a UK perspective’ - Boehringer Ingelheim, Swedish Vet CPD • ‘Liver fluke & rumen fluke in cattle’ British Cattle Vets Association • ‘Liver fluke control in sheep – Test, don’t guess!’ - Elanco/National Sheep Association • Panel Discussion - Crofters’ Question Time • ‘Sustainable control of worms & fluke’ Pasture-fed Livestock Association • ‘Liver fluke in sheep & cattle’ Welsh Vet Science Centre CPD

Dave Bartley have also been keeping busy on

All of these events have kept Moredun in

the webinar front the past few months, with

the spotlight and have proved to be a very

contributions that include:

effective KE strategy during lockdown.


6th World One Health Congress – Virtual Edition The 6th World One Health Congress was recently held between 30th October to the 3rd November. Originally arranged to be held in Edinburgh, current restrictions saw the entire Congress shift to being run virtually under the social media hashtag #WOHC2020. An introduction to WOHC2020 A statement on the Congress website reads: “COVID-19 has clearly shown why One Health, the core of which is the recognition of the existential interconnectedness of humans, animals and their shared environment, is key to ensuring the healthy and sustainable future of the planet. We all know that there has been, and continues to be, a significant increase in the emergence of infectious agents and in the potential risk of new pandemics, as exemplified by the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 has also clearly demonstrated that a previously unknown pathogen can emerge from a wildlife source at any time in any place and without warning, threatening the health, well-being and economies of all societies. There is therefore a clear need for countries to have the capability and capacity to maintain an effective alert and response system to detect and quickly react to outbreaks of international concern, and to share information about such outbreaks rapidly and transparently. Responding to pandemic threats requires global cooperation and global participation. Combined with the growing globalization of health risks and the importance of the human-animal interface in the evolution and emergence of pathogens, the only solution is a One Health approach. In addition, this pandemic has transformed the way scientists and clinicians communicate and share information during a fast moving health crisis. This raises questions on how to deal with ‘infodemics’ or with ‘bad information’; how to ‘evaluate’ rumours; and how to ensure the benefits of rapid information sharing can outweigh the disadvantages of secrecy. We had hoped to reschedule the 6th World One Health Congress ‘live version’ later at the end of October-early November, but it appears that even then large gatherings may still be

prohibited and existing travel bans for some countries may still be in place, and additionally we want to prioritize the health and safety of our faculty and attendees. We have therefore decided to go ‘virtual’, and to make the 6th World One Health Congress a virtual congress. We are really excited about it and about its potential to allow an even greater number of One Health scientists from around the world to join us. We are aiming at having a conference of approx. 2000 participants, as research shows that by hosting the congress on line, it will increase attendance by up to 145%! So do join us!”

Moredun staff participation Julie Fitzpatrick chaired a session on Sunday 1st November titled: “Advances in vaccine technologies and their impact in underprivileged communities/populations,” which involved speakers from the UK, Italy, Germany and Tanzania. Nuno Silva was the first speaker from Moredun on the Friday lunch time, presenting on “Characterisation of the microbial resistome of a Sheep farm: A sewage-sludge experimental model” under a session about AMR. Lee Innes spoke on Friday evening during a special Partner Session organised by the University of Edinburgh and supported by

SEFARI, titled: “A Blueprint for a One Health Nation.” Her talk was titled “ ‘Some hae meat and cannae eat, and some wad eat that want it’: What do Scots want for the future of food and farming?” You can view the entire talk, along with the other talks in this session, on the Moredun website ( research/one-health) or our YouTube channel ( Clare Hamilton presented a digital poster “Toxoplasma gondii in the Caribbean: prevalence and genetic diversity in free-roaming chickens”. Eleanor Watson presented a digital poster, titled: “Nanopore sequencing to assess carriage of microbes and antimicrobial resistance genes by a marine sentinel species.” Mairi Mitchell presented a digital poster, titled: “Human pathogenic potential of Shiga toxin producing E.coli (STEC) isolated from wild Scottish deer.”

New Moredun One Health webpage Alongside the Congress, a new page has been set up on the Moredun website dedicated to the Institute’s One Health work. It is still a work-in-progress, but you can visit it (as well as view the digital posters presented at the Congress) at: research/one-health

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020 11

Spotlight Meet Moredun’s newest recruits Andy Chadder

Kayleigh Allen

Luca Massaro

Head of in-vitro Biosafety at Moredun Scientific since June 2020

Scientific Apprentice since October 2019

IT Service Delivery Manager since October 2020.

What is your role?

Tell us about your Apprenticeship:

What is your role?

I am responsible for the running of the in-vitro biosafety group. We are a young (except for me!) and enthusiastic team who are responsible for performing microbiological detection assays: sterility, bioburden [a measure of microbial contamination levels on or in a product] and mycobacteria. The assays are performed on intermediate bio-process samples and final drug products in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations. Demonstrating that a product is sterile is a critical test in the safe release of a product. The reports we produce are used to facilitate the final release of drug products into clinical trials and the commercial market.

I spend time with different departments within Moredun Group learning about each department’s role and the typical day-to-day tasks within the lab such as preparing reagents and setting up equipment and consumables. I am working towards a SVQ level 7 in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities (Industrial Science). I am also attending college on day release to complete a NC level 6 in Applied Science. I am enjoying getting to know everyone within Moredun Research Institute as well as Moredun Scientific and I look forward to spending time with and learning about the departments I have not visited yet.

I am the new IT Service Delivery Manager for the group. I am here to better help bridge the gap between technology and its users.

Any hobbies?

Relaxing with my three Cocker Spaniels watching a movie or two. When there is no pandemic, an Escape Room with friends before playing some board games.

I play guitar and I like long distance running. I ran my first Ultra-marathon last year and I’m now hooked. However, a winter knee injury curtailed my running and I’m yet to resume any training.


Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020

What is your idea of a good weekend?

What projects are currently underway in the IT department? We are working towards making things simpler and safer for our users: Tony (Hill, Head of ICT) is working in conjunction with other departments to produce a new staff Intranet portal for the group. I am reviewing the induction process and we will be producing more training material, to empower all the group staff to work more efficiently using the available IT tools and solutions. We are also completing the roll-out of Multi-Factor authentication across the group, in an effort to increase security and better protect our data.

How would you spend your ideal Saturday? Seashell hunting with my daughter Grace and my partner Johanne. And some alone time on the cold and wintry hills every now and then works miracles!


Photo | David Macintyre

Moredun bus completed!

The new Moredun bus with its eye-catching illustration from Blobina Animations.

You may remember from the last edition of Moredun Magazine that we had commissioned the building of a brand new vehicle in honour of our Centenary year and as a nostalgic nod to Moredun’s humble beginning as the Animal Diseases Research Association, where some of the early field work was carried out on farm from the back of a makeshift bus. The new Moredun mobile laboratory and outreach bus was half way through the build

when construction company Lothian Vehicle Bodybuilders (LVB) had to stop due to the lockdown. They reopened in early summer and threw themselves back into the work. We are delighted to announce that the build is now complete and the bus has been delivered to its new home at the Pentlands Science Park. The folks at LVB evidently really enjoyed having such a fun project to work on, and presented us with a print of our old bus to put up inside the new one. Director of Communications and Principal Scientist Professor Lee Innes says: “We are delighted to have the new Moredun bus

The interior of the bus.

finished in our centenary year and I would really like to thank everyone at Lothian Vehicle Bodybuilders for their exceptional work and commitment to the project. The vehicle has been converted to be a mobile laboratory which resonates with Moredun’s beginnings when much of the field work in the 1920’s was conducted from a shepherds hut on wheels. We will also use the bus for outreach activities and I would like to thank all of our sponsors and donors for their support and we look forward to working with them going forward”. We have been very grateful to have received financial sponsorship from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, MSD Animal Health, Elanco, Norbrook, Crown Estate Scotland, the National Sheep Association, the Equine Grass Sickness Fund, Norvite and some private donors. We are also open to accepting donations from individuals, no matter how big or small. We will be adding an option to our online shop that will allow you to donate directly to the fund that will help pay for the building and operating costs of the new bus. Every penny will directly count towards our mission surrounding outreach and education through this very special vehicle. If you would like to make a donation, please visit: https://portal. We are looking forward to taking it for a test drive soon, and hopefully out and about to some smaller events next year, COVID

Jackie Docherty, LVB presents Neil Inglis with a print of the original mobile laboratory.

restrictions allowing.

Moredun Magazine | Autumn/Winter 2020 13

The Moredun Foundation is a company limited by guarantee, registered in Scotland No. SC151865. The Moredun Foundation is a charity registered in Scotland, No. SC022515. Address: Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland, EH26 0PZ.


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Moredun Magazine - Issue 20  

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