Moredun ISSUE 21 | SPRING/SUMMER 2021
Centenary - Podcasts Using mini-stomachs to help understanding of how parasites survive inside cattle Science education workshop with Heavy Sound
Director’s comment mini-series of podcasts (P1) as part of our centenary celebrations. We were delighted that our patron HRH The Princess Royal did a special interview as part of this series.
In this Issue: p1-3 News p4
Moredun-SRUC-NHS team shortlisted for award
Moredun Scientific / Pentlands Science Park
Liver fluke risk and agrienvironment schemes
Using mini-stomachs to understand how parasites survive inside cattle
For Flocks Sake
Groundbreaking Malignant Catarrhal Fever vaccine
Out and About
Spotlight - Meet Moredun’s newest recruits
Save the Date: Moredun Centenary Conference
Congratulations to our brilliant COVID-19 testing team that were finalists in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange awards (P4). This was a fantastic achievement and great recognition for the work to support the national effort to tackle the pandemic.
A very warm welcome to our Spring edition of the Moredun Magazine and I hope this finds you all safe and well as we move forward out of lockdown restrictions. It has been a very challenging few months for everyone and I hope that the lambing and calving has gone well and it was lovely to have some warmer weather again. It was with great sadness that we heard the news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh
We are featuring some exciting new research using novel culture systems growing miniorgans in the lab to enable a detailed understanding of how pathogens cause disease in livestock (P7). On P8 we report on a new community led approach to help improve control of sheep scab and on P11 the launch of the new Equine Grass Sickness biobank project. Moredun scientists have been busy with several online events and I would like to highlight the work of Carol Currie on P11 for her brilliant science education project with disadvantaged children. Finally, I would like to invite you all to save the date for our Moredun Centenary Conference (P13) and we really look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to this
and on P2 we remember his visit to Moredun to open the new Microbiology laboratory in 1962. We have remained very busy at Moredun with lots going on in our research and outreach activities. I would highly recommend our
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 ©2021. All images, unless otherwise stated, are ©Moredun. To subscribe, contact: Moredun Communications Team, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PZ
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
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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: Marc Faber, David Smith and Katie Hildersley (Moredun Research Institute)
Centenary - Podcasts To help celebrate Moredun’s Centenary, a mini-series of podcasts were produced in collaboration with OnFARM and all six episodes are available to listen to online. You can access them from the Centenary section of the Moredun website: https://www.moredun.org.uk/ centenary Episode 1: Moredun’s 100 years of livestock health In 1920, a visionary group of Scottish farmers came together to work out how to cut alarmingly high rates of livestock losses. Together, they formed ADRA - the Animal Diseases Research Association. These days, it is still owned and run by farmers, but is better known as the Moredun Research Institute for animal health. Many of the vaccines and treatments now routinely used on UK sheep and cattle were developed by Moredun scientists.
a nice momento. From all at OnFARM, happy
Grass Sickness fundraiser Yvonne Maclean, while Beth Wells from the Moredun Research Institute details new efforts to find a cure. For more on funding and supporting a cure for Equine Grass Sickness, please visit:
retirement Ian, and best of luck Gareth!
Episode 5: Equine Grass Sickness: Her Majesty’s Balmoral losses and a push for a cure
Episode 6: HRH The Princess Royal supports new research Fellowship to investigate Equine Grass Sickness
Her Majesty the Queen’s Balmoral Estate
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal officially launches a research drive to study Equine Grass Sickness, an often fatal disease of horses. The Moredun Foundation and The Equine Grass Sickness Fund have joined forces to launch a three-year research Fellowship, bringing together a partnership of horse owners, vets and scientists. HRH The Princess Royal is patron for both charities.
the end of 2020 so he could end on the high point of a year of centenary festivities. Alas, this was not to be, but we hope this episode (particularly a surprise right at the end) will be
lost 5 Highland ponies in less than a year to Equine Grass Sickness. The disease is almost always fatal to horses, and seems to affect Scotland worse than other parts of the UK. Sylvia Ormiston, who manages Her Majesty’s Balmoral stud, recalls the five losses, and describes how it prompted her to get more involved in searching for a cure. We also meet
Episode 2: Moredun on the cutting edge The Moredun Research Institute has come a long way since it was set up by Scottish farmers in 1920, in a bid to cut devastating livestock losses. Monty hears how its latest breakthrough has revolutionised farming practices as far away as South Africa and Australia - and how researchers are even playing a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19.
Episode 3: Moredun’s Centenary: You’re invited to a celebration You’re on the guest list for a (virtual) drinks reception to celebrate 100 years of Scotland’s Moredun Research Institute. Just press play to attend, enjoy the (virtual) free booze and canapes, and mingle with the great and the good of livestock science.
Episode 4: Passing the baton: the Moredun chairmen chat We’re rounding off 2020 by eavesdropping on a chat between the Moredun Foundation’s outgoing chairman Ian Duncan Millar, and his successor Gareth Baird. Ian chose to retire at
HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of the Moredun Foundation.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
News His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021)
HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh discussing science at Moredun’s new microbiology building.
It is with great sadness that staff at Moredun heard the news of the death of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 9th April and we would like to offer our condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and to our patron HRH The Princess Royal and the rest of the Royal Family. The Duke of Edinburgh had a keen interest in science and engineering and he visited Moredun on the 2nd July 1962 to open the new Microbiology building. He spoke to many of the scientists and visited the 12 laboratories
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
in the new building and congratulated those who had set up the organisation for their vision of farmers and scientists working together to find solutions for livestock diseases. He made reference to the “Freedom from Hunger” campaign which he had just inaugurated and expressed his hope that the new technologies developed at Moredun would also bring international benefit. Since the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Microbiology building nearly 60 years ago, Moredun has gone on to develop several innovative vaccines and diagnostic tests to help prevent and control livestock disease that are used in many countries across the world.
“The Duke of Edinburgh congratulated those that had set up the organisation for their vision of farmers and scientists working together to find solutions for livestock diseases.”
Funding awarded for three PhD studentships from Eastbio The East of Scotland Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (EASTBIO DTP) brings together universities and research institutes, including Moredun, from the east of Scotland. The programme has been funded by UKRI BBSRC since 2012 and provides world-class bioscience doctoral training in areas of strategic national priority (www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk). Moredun are delighted to have been successfully awarded funding this year for three EASTBIO PhD studentships, for the following projects:
Watson, Dr David Longbottom and Dr Nuno
Risk Factors and Causal Agents of Equine Grass Sickness
Silva at Moredun, Dr Karen Scott at the
Equine grass sickness (EGS) is a devastating
Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen)
disease of horses first characterised over
and Dr Nick Schurch at Biomathematics and
100 years ago. However, the causal agents
Statistics Scotland (BioSS).
have still not been identified. The chosen PhD
The supervisory team includes Dr Eleanor
The effects of nematode and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis infections on the ovine intestinal microbiome. The aim of this 4 year PhD project is to understand how the intestinal microbiome can affect, and is affected by, the efficacy of concomitant anthelmintic treatment and vaccines against Johne’s Disease in co-infected
student will join our EGS Fellow, Dr Kathy Geyer, in a multi-disciplinary project involving: 1. The development of a national biobank to provide relevant samples to allow research; 2. Setting up in vitro equine organoid gut cultures to investigate the gut reaction to putative pathogens and toxins and 3. The development of a non-invasive saliva based diagnostic assay.
sheep. This systems biology approach of
The student will be supervised by Dr Beth
Nanopore sequencing to investigate zoonosis and antibiotic resistance at the wildlife-livestock interface.
integrating research at the microbe, animal
Wells, Dr Kathy Geyer and Dr Stewart Burgess
and environmental/farm level is essential to
at Moredun and Dr Liam Morrison, University
tackling the spread of Johne’s Disease and is
of Edinburgh. The EGSF, as industry partners,
The project aims to develop methods that will allow us to more fully understand potential disease risks from wildlife populations as well as help to support the development of sustainable farming practices that have minimal impact on our natural ecosystems.
relevant to the control of other infectious
will host the student for several months each
diseases of livestock. It will be led by Dr Eulyn
year, supervised by Kate Thomson, to work
Pagaling at James Hutton Institute (Aberdeen),
with horse owners and practicing vets to raise
in collaboration with Dr Andrew Free at
awareness, knowledge and reporting
University of Edinburgh and Dr Craig Watkins
of disease cases.
combined distance of 12,930 miles - just over half the circumference of the world! We also were delighted to be the team that logged the most distance per group member. Not bad when we had just under half the amount of participants that the winning team had.
Dr Beth Wells writes about the Run1000 challenge that she took part in to raise awareness and donations for rural mental health charity RSABI (https://rsabi.org.uk/Home-Page).
A UK and “rest of the world” rural running challenge was launched on January 1st to run 1000 miles during January to raise vital funds for rural mental health, while encouraging the participants to look after their own well-being by getting active in one of the most difficult months of the year, compounded by another lockdown. The idea was the brainchild of a farmer from the South of Scotland and was a friendly
A beautiful view of the Cairngorms while stopping for a breather!
competition between the four home nations and “the rest of the world” to see who could get to 1000 miles as a team first and who can raise the most money. The challenge raised over £47,775K and had over 1000 active participants. As a team we completed the 1000 miles on January 1st , so that was that goal blown out of the water! Team Scotland are delighted to announce that, in total, they raised an incredible £7,770 covering a
Congratulations to all of the UK teams and to everyone who took part!
Everyone kept clocking the miles no matter what the weather!
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Research Moredun-SRUC-NHS Covid testing team short-listed for award We are delighted that the collaboration between Moredun, SRUC Veterinary Services and the NHS to set up a fully integrated testing facility to detect SARS-Cov-2 was selected as one of the finalists in the prestigious Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2021. The collaboration started in March 2020 at the start of the first lock down, when staff at Moredun and SRUC offered help to NHS colleagues to expand testing capacity for COVID-19 by utilising Moredun’s high containment laboratories and skilled staff and SRUC’s capacity to deliver high throughput molecular diagnostics. This was a significant project involving many staff across the three organisations and we were all delighted when the testing node went live in June 2020 to help the national effort to tackle COVID-19. The Moredun-SRUC partnership were also the first national veterinary centre to help the NHS with testing for SARS-Cov-2 and it is a great example of One Health in action. This testing node processes samples from hospitals and care homes across Scotland and is offering a 7 day a week service with the testing being fully compliant with NHS quality standards. The partnership has also enabled the introduction of new innovations, e.g. sample pooling, which has been pioneered by SRUC veterinary services for the detection of RNA viruses of livestock in individual clinical samples in high volume testing lines. This pooling approach has the potential to significantly expand testing capacity as well as bringing economic and efficiency benefits to the national COVID-19 testing effort. Several new recruits were taken on to help with the project providing valuable training and employment opportunities for new graduates.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
The COVID-19 testing lab at Moredun in full swing.
Moredun Scientific/Pentlands Science Park
Moredun Scientific develops Aquaculture Contract Research Service Moredun Scientific continues to develop its aquaculture contract services following on from the successful launch of the new business unit in 2019. The company conducts studies to support the development of new and improved fish health, nutrition and disease control products for the fast-growing aquaculture sector. This includes testing the efficacy and safety of vaccines, anti-infectives, anti-parasitics, feed additives and novel feed materials. Clients include pharmaceutical, biotechnology, fish breeding and feed additive companies. Salmon, trout and cold water marine species are the main species currently used in studies and preparations for future work with shellfish are underway. Moredun Scientific’s aquaculture team has extensive experience of working with a range of fish pathogens (including parasites, bacteria
Moredun Scientific offers critical support to improving the health of farmed fish.
and viruses) and the portfolio of infectious disease models available for use in efficacy studies continues to expand. Studies targeting Salmon lice are a key focus as the parasite continues to be a major issue for salmon farmers with outbreaks causing fish welfare issues and production losses. Client studies are carried out in a range of biosecure aquaculture research facilities which enable the team to work with both marine and freshwater fish species. The facilities provide high levels of environmental control and are fully compliant with required
regulatory standards for animal welfare, biosecurity and environmental protection. Ongoing collaboration with the Aquaculture Research Group at the Moredun Research Institute (headed by Dr Kim Thompson) brings additional expertise and support in the areas of fish immunology, vaccinology and diagnostics. The recent addition of fish immune function studies to the portfolio of services is a result of the strong links with the Institute. The importance of the aquaculture sector is significant, as farmed salmon is recognised as a healthy and high quality food and is Scotland’s leading food export. Moredun looks forward to continuing to support the sustainable growth of the industry through enabling the development of solutions for optimal fish health and welfare. For more information please contact Bill Roy, Head of Aquaculture, Moredun Scientific firstname.lastname@example.org
Pentlands Science Park PENTLANDS SCIENCE PARK (PSP) has seen a number of changes during the first quarter of 2021. After 20 years PSP bid farewell to Park Manager George Walker as he goes off to enjoy a well-earned retirement. The newly appointed Park Manager is Jill Gayford. Jill’s background is in commercial surveying where she has spent the last 15 years of her career working for both private surveying practices as well as individual clients, homing her property asset management skills.
of the Moredun Foundation with Peter Scott Aiton stepping up to become the Chairman of Pentlands Science Park Board. The Park’s occupancy level remains high, however, a large number of the tenants remain working from home due to ongoing COVID restrictions. Over the course of the next few months we hope with the easing of the Scottish Government’s restrictions we will start to see an influx of both tenants and Moredun staff members returning to the Park. This will involve working closely with the various stakeholders to ensure that the Park
There have also been changes within the PSP
continues to provide a safe and friendly
Board. After 7 years as Chair of the PSP Board
working environment for everyone to flourish
Gareth Baird goes on to become the Chairman
in. It is fair to say that the next 6 to 18 months
we will no doubt see further changes for both tenants and Moredun staff; however, the PSP team will endeavor to work with all parties to ensure that occupancy within the park remains high.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Research Liver fluke risk and agri-environment schemes The liver fluke is a highly pathogenic flatworm parasite, which can cause significant disease and production losses in sheep and cattle. It has a complicated life-cycle, involving a tiny mud snail as intermediate host, so is typically found in lowlying, boggy or ‘fluky’ ground. Interestingly, some agri-environment schemes promote the grazing of such wetland areas on farms for other environmental benefits associated with these habitats. As a result, there is some perceived reluctance amongst livestock farmers to engage in such schemes for fear of increasing the liver fluke risk to their livestock. We have been investigating the liver fluke risk associated with one of these conservation grazing scenarios, namely grazing newlyestablished wader scrapes at SRUC Hill and Mountain Research Centre, Kirkton,
encourage them back into farmed landscapes is to introduce what are known as wader scrapes. These are typically small shallow ponds with muddy margins which provide access to invertebrates as food for water fowl and wading birds. SRUC established a number of wader scrapes at Kirkton and Auchtertyre approximately 5 years ago, under a Scottish Government Agri-environment and Climate Scheme (AECS). Wetland areas and grazing animals would not appear to be compatible from a liver fluke risk perspective, hence our interest in actually monitoring the situation over time as the wader scrapes established. Small mobs of sheep are brought into the scrape areas from neighbouring in-bye fields for short periods of grazing. This is deemed essential to maintain the sward at the requisite height for nesting etc., to break up the vegetation and provide dung for invertebrates, and also to prevent the margins from becoming overgrown and inaccessible to the birds.
Crianlarich, in collaboration with Prof. Davy McCracken and colleagues. Wetland birds such as snipe, oystercatcher, curlew and lapwing are in serious decline in Scotland. One way to
We have tested faecal samples from grazing sheep for fluke eggs monthly over several grazing seasons, and have yet to find evidence
Mud snail sampling at Kirkton.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Adult liver flukes with its tiny intermediate host, the mud snail (inset).
of fluke infection as a result of grazing around the wader scrapes. We also sampled the mud snail population around the margins of the scrapes over time. The ‘liver fluke snail’, was a little slow to establish, but is there now, but we have yet to find evidence of liver fluke infection in the snails. We have, however, found liver fluke eggs in deer faecal samples around the scrape margins, so fluke is there, albeit at very low levels currently. From the work undertaken to date, it would appear that the risk to livestock from grazing under this specific agri-environment scheme would currently appear to be lower than in the in-bye fields from where they came. It would be premature to say there is no risk, as we can ‘never say never’ with fluke! How long this remains the case depends on how the schemes are managed going forward, e.g. stocking density, length of grazing periods etc. The study has served to reinforce the message that farmers and land managers need to be able to assess the fluke risk on their own farm, based on local environmental conditions, diagnostic testing and grazing management practices, because every farm is different, whether in an agri-environment scheme or not! The ideal scenario is to identify the potential win-wins and encourage evidencebased decision making such that agrienvironment schemes promote biodiversity, but not at the expense of animal health.
Using mini-stomachs to help understanding of how parasites survive inside cattle Photo | Marc Faber, David Smith and Katie Hildersley (Moredun Research Institute)
Scientists at Moredun Research Institute and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh have joined forces to develop threedimensional cell cultures which mimic the stomach of cattle. These ‘mini-stomachs’ will allow a detailed analysis of how the worms interact with the cells lining the stomach, and to test the effects of anthelmintic drugs on worms when they are within the stomach environment. Through this work, it is hoped that novel methods can be developed to control this important parasite.
Photo | Marc Faber, David Smith and Katie Hildersley (Moredun Research Institute)
Ostertagia ostertagia is a gastrointestinal worm which affects millions of cattle globally and is highly prevalent in the UK. In a recent UK abattoir survey, 89% of cattle had evidence of infection by the parasite. The parasite lives in the abomasum (or true stomach) of cattle where it causes losses in calf growth-rates, carcass quality and milk production. A major issue is that immunity to the parasite takes months to develop, which is thought to be due to the parasite suppressing immune responses within the stomach lining. This has the knockon effect that infections impact production for
Ileum organoid infected with a worm (in red).
Teladorsagia circuncincta (in red) in a sheep mini-stomach.
long periods of time. Control of this parasite
to control the parasite more quickly, or
relies heavily on anthelmintic drug treatments.
developing new types of anti-parasite drugs.
Worryingly, there is now good evidence that the parasite is becoming resistant to many of these drugs, meaning existing treatments are becoming less effective. Therefore, the industry will need new methods of parasite
This project is an Easter Bush Research Consortium project funded by Zoetis.
control in the future. This could involve
For further information,
interfering with the parasites ability to
please contact Tom McNeilly
suppress immune responses to allow cattle
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Research For Flocks Sake – Let’s Stop Scab Together A new initiative has been launched that uses serological testing to improve the control of sheep scab within hot spot areas in England. A group of experts have recently been successful in a bid for funding from DEFRA via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to demonstrate the effectiveness of community-led approaches to improve the control of sheep scab in three hot spot areas in England. The project is led by Dr Stewart Burgess at the Moredun Research Institute, Lesley Stubbings at LSSC Ltd and Professor Richard Wall at Bristol University, with partners National Sheep Association (NSA), ADAS, the Farmer Network and Flock Health Ltd. It will run over two years, offering participating farmers a unique combination of on-farm advice, best practice training, free blood testing using the sheep scab ELISA test developed at Moredun, including paying the cost of a visit by a local veterinary surgeon. This co-ordinated approach will be used to demonstrate the control of sheep scab in three focus areas of England where scab currently presents a significant problem: The North West, the Midlands and the South West. Sheep scab, a highly infectious disease caused by the parasitic mite Psoroptes ovis, costs the UK sheep industry an estimated £70200 million every year and has remained a significant problem for the health, welfare and productivity of sheep since the 1950s when it was re-introduced via imported sheep. As populations of sheep scab mites in the UK now have proven resistance to one of the main treatment groups, injectable macrocyclic lactones (MLs), it is imperative that as an industry, we make a concerted effort to bring this disease under control. The project will engage farmers who are willing to work with their neighbours and their vets in testing, sharing results and undertaking
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
the practical elements required to bring sheep scab under control. Importantly, the work will be co-ordinated by local industry groups already working with sheep farmers in each focus area, including the Farmer Network in the North West, ADAS in the Midlands and NSA in the South West, which will increase participation. Farm vets will be highly involved with their clients within the project and will be working closely with the regional coordinators within the clusters. This is an exciting community-led approach to sheep scab control, with fantastic opportunities involving a team of experts, working collaboratively with farmers to bring this terrible disease under control.
Lesley Stubbings, independent Sheep Consultant commented “It is fantastic to see this project come to fruition, having been first proposed to DEFRA by the SCOPS group in 2019. I am really looking forward to working with such an enthusiastic team.” Dr Christine Middlemiss the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) commented: “I welcome the RDPE scab project led by the Moredun Research Institute, LSSC and Bristol University to improve the control of sheep scab within hot spot areas in England. Their unique combination of onfarm advice, training and blood testing will support sheep farmers in their fight against a disease that costs the industry an estimated £70-200 million every year and remains a significant problem for sheep health and welfare. This is an exciting community-led approach to sheep scab control and I am looking forward to seeing this exciting project come to fruition.”
If you are interested in participating, please contact the coordinator in your respective region: North West: The Farmer Network: Tel: 01768 868615; email: email@example.com A co-ordinated approach to sheep scab controls offers the best option for sheep scab.
Dr Stewart Burgess, project lead from Moredun commented: “Sheep scab is a real scourge for the sheep industry in the UK and by using new tools like the sheep scab blood test, this exciting new initiative gives us the opportunity to get ahead of the curve in terms of scab control, setting a new benchmark for how we deal with the disease in the future”. Prof Richard Wall, from the University of Bristol commented: “After 50 years of attempts to manage this disease, approaches used to date have clearly failed and it is time to apply some fresh thinking based on focused management in known scab hotspots”.
South West: Through its local network, NSA have identified an area suitable to deliver the project aims; for further information please contact Sean Riches: firstname.lastname@example.org Midlands: Kate Phillips: email@example.com or Karen Wheeler: Karen.Wheeler@adas.co.uk For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org This project has been supported through the Rural Development Programme for England which is jointly funded by DEFRA and the European Union (www.ec.europa. eu/agriculture/rurdev).
Groundbreaking Malignant Catarrhal Fever vaccine technology heading to South Africa
Moredun Research Institute has signed an agreement with Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) in South Africa to license its bovine Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF) vaccine. This agreement will lead to the final development, registration, and production of the vaccine against MCF in South Africa (SA). MCF, known as Snotsiekte in SA, is a fatal viral disease of cattle that is predominantly transmitted by wildebeest and is notifiable in South Africa. This disease is a serious problem for cattle across much of eastern and southern Africa, wherever wildebeest come into contact with cattle. Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director Moredun Research Institute said, “Moredun Research Institute is committed to providing innovative vaccines for common endemic diseases of livestock, wherever they occur. The vaccine for MCF is a world first and it is very much hoped that it will reduce disease in cattle and improve the livelihoods of farmers across affected parts of Africa”.
Dr Baptiste Dungu, director of OBP, said, “OBP will work with partners in the South African livestock industry to diligently further develop and successfully improve the technologies, with the hopes of registering and launching the Snotsiekte vaccine in South Africa. This is a scoop for OBP as there is currently no other BMC vaccine available, so it could be made available to other African countries where the disease causes problems”. Dr George Russell, Principal Scientist, Moredun Research Institute said, “We have been working on a protective vaccine for bovine malignant catarrhal fever for more than fifteen years and following successful experimental and field trials of the vaccine in the UK, Kenya and South Africa, Moredun is delighted to support this partnership with OBP to further develop the vaccine for use in Africa”. Dr Sello Maboe, veterinarian and Technical manager at OBP, said, “There is currently no effective treatment known for the disease, and while cattle movement away from wildebeest during high-risk periods helps, having a vaccine will help add a layer of protection to cattle herds, especially where movement of animals may not be practical. The availability of an effective vaccine will therefore be a big milestone for food security in the
control of this devastating disease that has become a serious problem in the cattle farming sector in South Africa. This will also help promote a healthy interface between cattle and game farming into the future, recognising the contribution each sector brings to the country’s agricultural economy”. Dr Peter Oberem, South African veterinarian and game farmer said: “It is a virus carried specifically by healthy wildebeest. When the wildebeest become stressed, due to calving or weaning, the immunity is suppressed and they shed the snotsiekte virus from the respiratory tract. Cattle within a vicinity of a kilometre of these shedding wildebeest will begin to show symptoms, a month or more after exposure”. Very few affected cattle survive MCF, with thousands of cattle dying annually in SA, causing tremendous production losses and emotional turmoil for affected cattle farmers due to the severity of the clinical disease. Significantly, there is currently no other vaccine in the world for MCF/Snotsiekte; this will be the first vaccine registered for the disease globally, and it is hoped to benefit other countries on the continent facing a similar challenge.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Out and About Annual Moredun-Harper Adams Livestock Health workshop moves online for 2021 such as the ELISA test, developed at Moredun, to help in the control of disease outbreaks. Dr Burgess outlined progress towards a sheep scab vaccine aimed at increasing the tools available to farmers to fight this highly infectious and costly disease.
Wednesday 27th January saw Moredun and Harper Adams University continue their partnership by hosting their third joint Livestock Health workshop. Sadly there was no trip south for Moredun this year, but a virtual webinar was held instead. Although not the same as bringing our scientists, presentations, pop-up labs and Knowledge Exchange room to Harper, we had a really interesting morning listening to, then discussing several topics relating to livestock health.
Dr Mara Rocchi, Moredun, then gave a comprehensive account of the development of diagnostic tests within the Veterinary Surveillance Unit, along with some varied examples of how these have been applied to diagnose syndromes, such as bovine respiratory disease and tick-borne disease, in livestock, wildlife and game birds. Professor Lee Innes, Moredun then spoke on the very pertinent subject of zoonotic disease and how a One Health approach has helped tackle diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, which can cause abortion in sheep and humans. Professor Innes also outlined how Moredun, together with SRUC, as veterinary research centres, were able to assist the National Health Service by providing a Covid testing hub, using some of Moredun’s high containment facilities, illustrating One Health in action in Scotland!
develop our connectivity with colleagues at Harper Adams University to encourage new research collaborations aimed at improving livestock health and welfare and also One Health project opportunities. We look forward to building on this event and setting up some new initiatives between Moredun and Harper Adams University.” The final speaker of the morning was Dr Hannah Shaw from Harper Adams University, who spoke of her career path from her degree to PhD at Moredun, then on to her lecturing post at Harper. Hannah highlighted part of her PhD at Moredun which involved an economic farm based study of the long term growth effects of cryptosporidiosis in calves. This study was one of the first to quantify a long term effect of this disease on calf weight at weaning and subsequent store sale price. Attendance numbers on the webinar were high and the morning was rounded off by a number of questions from the audience, which stimulated an interesting panel discussion. You can view the webinar on the Moredun
The event was chaired by Dr Philip Robinson, Head of Veterinary Health and Animal Sciences at Harper Adams, who commented: “I’m tremendously pleased that this now annual event brings together Harper Adams and the Moredun to showcase together the vitally important scientific research in livestock health and welfare being conducted through each institution. Our past events have allowed us to bring together a wide range of stakeholders from across the industry, and today’s online forum was a similar success. We really value this ongoing partnership, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s event.” The webinar had a varied line up of interesting and current topics with first speaker, Dr Stewart Burgess, Moredun, discussing the control of sheep scab and focussing on the use of control strategies and available tools,
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
Professor Innes, Director of Communications at Moredun, commented: “We are delighted to
website at: https://www.moredun.org.uk/ foundation/outreach/webinars
OUT AND ABOUT
Science education workshop with Heavy Sound Moredun scientist, Carol Currie is one of our microbiologists who advises on work with high hazard group pathogens. She recently got involved in running an education workshop with a community interest company, Heavy Sound who work with vulnerable, disadvantaged and disengaged young people.
Carol reflected afterwards, “I was truly humbled by taking part in this collaboration. These children have had the hardest of lives imaginable and for one reason or other have missed so much schooling. Most were curious and keen to take part while others were curious but adamant that it looked too scary and left –but they came back now and again, I think to ‘take a wee look’ – then the most amazing thing happened one girl in particular that was adamant she wasn’t going to take part came back in
Heavy Sound (www.heavysoundcic.co.uk) was founded by Jordan Butler in 2015 and runs projects in schools, communities, prisons and works with mental health services to help engage people with positive experiences in learning, mainly using music, song writing and recording and other skills in the creative arts. Carol worked with Heavy Sound to run a hands on science workshop introducing the children to Microbiology, a timely topic with the Covid pandemic. Despite the children being
and put on a lab coat and gloves and sat down with the rest and took part in the whole practical. I am told that if her carers and teachers would have seen this they wouldn’t have believed it”. A microbiology workshop allowed young people to get hands on with science.
The children really enjoyed it and have all asked when Carol is coming back to run the next science workshop! The project shows the huge
a bit sceptical at the start, they soon joined in and Carol helped them to pretend they were in a laboratory and not a classroom.
difference that can be made by engaging with people to encourage new learning which helps to grow self confidence, esteem and resilience.
Webinars SAYFC webinar
EGS Biobank Webinars To raise awareness of the biobank we organised two separate webinars for vets and horse owners. The vet webinar attracted 89 vet registrations, and was chaired by Anne Logan of the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. Speakers included Moredun’s Kathy Geyer, retired vet Donald Maclean and Dick Vet pathologist Elspeth Milne, and covered the aims of the project, the veterinary point of view, and the post mortem process. 216 horse owners registered for the second webinar. Moredun’s Lee Innes chaired the session, with speakers Beth Wells, Kathy Geyer and Donald Maclean explaining how to donate samples. Balmoral Stud manager Sylvia Ormiston gave the heart-rending story from the horse owners’ point of view, having lost five of HM The Queen’s ponies to the disease. Sophie Cookson of the BHS introduced the
BHS Friends at the End Scheme for bereaved horse owners. Huge thanks to Luca Massaro from IT for ensuring all the speakers managed to connect on the night. Interested parties can join a network of vets and owners across the UK as EGS Ambassadors, to help spread the word about this new project, and we can report that both biological and environmental samples have already been donated. The recordings of the events can be found online: Horse Owners: https://youtu.be/ mAq4kpaLJso Vets: https://youtu.be/-ZGuKJvbk20 (Warning, vet webinar contains graphic post mortem images)
We were delighted to be involved with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs North Area Webinar ‘Farming for Tomorrow’ on the 11th February. Dr Beth Wells spoke about livestock health and how advances in research will help maximise farm business efficiency in the future. The subjects discussed were of great interest to the delegates attending and included areas where Moredun is undertaking some really promising research in parasite vaccines, pen-side diagnostic tests and the development of “mini-stomachs” (see page 7 for further details on those!). Thanks to the SAYFC North Region Agri & Rural Affairs Committee for inviting us to be part of this event, where we were delighted to be able to discuss some of our research aimed at providing solutions to improve livestock health and efficiency.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021 11
Spotlight Meet Moredun’s newest recruits Hannah Crick
SARS-CoV-2 Testing Team Lead
Aquaculture Technical Office
What is your role?
What is your role?
What is your role?
We receive samples daily from Hospitals, Care Homes, and positive samples to look for the new virus strain from around Scotland. We register each sample in the NHS IT systems and then aliquot and add to inactivation buffer to be taken to our SRUC colleagues for RNA extraction and SARS-Cov-2 PCR. All quite straightforward until something goes wrong, which it does fairly often but we generally manage to fix it in no time!
I am working on developing bovine abomasum organoids (‘mini stomachs’) in vitro to use as a study model for interactions with the brown stomach worm Ostertagia ostertagi. For this I will investigate how well the organoids represent the gut of the animal by characterising the different cell populations. These organoids will then be infected with different life stages of Ostertagia and I will analyse gene expression changes in both parasite and host and compare it to the live animal model. Ultimately the goal is to then analyse bioaccumulation and impact of novel anti-helminthic compounds provided by Zoetis in this model.
I am involved in the completion of safety and efficacy studies evaluating a range of products for aquatic species. Our team is currently carrying out several studies on Atlantic salmon and trout. The idea is to expand our business scope and start working with marine shrimp soon, which I am looking forward to, as they were the topic of my PhD and my passion!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? I would either go to Central/South America for the scenery and culture, but mostly the food, or to New Zealand for the scenery and culture, but mostly the Hobbits.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? I would like to travel through the southern states of the US from New Orleans to Los Angeles, to expand my previous experience in New Mexico and enjoy the amazing landscape and food culture in that area.
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021
If you were to win £1M tomorrow, what is the first thing you would do I do believe all of us have thought about this at some point of our lives, meticulously deciding step by step all the cool things we would do when that moment comes. To be fair if that happens to me, I think I would be in shock for the rest of the day.
Save the date Moredun Centenary Conference 24-25th Nov 2021 Please join us for Moredun’s Centenary Conference Healthy Livestock, Healthy People, Healthy Planet
Grass Sickness Biobank Launched Newly appointed Equine Grass Sickness Research Fellow Kathy Geyer has jumped straight in at the deep end, working in a race against time to launch the biobank before the start of the peak grass sickness season.
Not knowing when or where cases will occur,
been difficult to gauge the prevalence and
however, makes this a very complex process,
location of the disease, and this is an area for
involving equine vets and horse owners from
the biobank to address, along with owner
across the UK. The protocols for collection
observations of the factors leading up to
of biological samples are now in place, in
development of the disease.
The biobank will become a legacy of the
The information and consent forms to donate
data, which will provide the third element
Fellowship project, collecting the biological
samples are available on the EGSF website:
of the biobank. This is the first time we have
and environmental samples badly needed for
been in a position to accurately diagnose
scientific interrogation. A case questionnaire
cases and simultaneously collect associated
HORSE OWNERS: https://grasssickness.org.
horse and environment related samples,
and the opportunity to examine these using
new techniques and from new angles is both
consultation with several other institutes and veterinary practices.
Finally, discussions are advancing to set up the protocols for the collection of environmental
will accompany the samples, allowing greater analysis of the causal agents and risk factors associated with the disease. The biobank has received generous funding from the British Horse Society to enable the collection of samples over the next three years.
promising and very exciting. The next step for the biobank is to establish a new case questionnaire to capture further
For further information and to take part please
information about cases. To date it has
Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2021 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.
Spring/Summer edition of the Moredun Magazine