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Moredun ISSUE 19 | SPRING/SUMMER 2020

magazine

100 years of Research and Education Equine Grass Sickness vaccine results Best practices for sheep scab control

www.moredun.org.uk


Contents

Director’s comment

In this Issue: p1-3 News p4

Moredun’s response to Covid-19 pandemic

p6

100 years of Research and Education

p8

Out and About

p10

New generation Louping III vaccine New in-feed sea lice vaccine

p12

Results of a vaccine for the prevention of equine grass sickness

p13

Best practice for the control of Sheep Scab

Photo | AviateMedia

p11

Welcome to the Spring/Summer edition of the Moredun Magazine. 100 years ago, on 17 March 1920, the Animal Disease Research Association was born – the forerunner to the modern-day Moredun Foundation. Over the last century we have had the privilege of helping the farming community combat a variety of diseases, and are proud to still be working side-by-side to this day. Throughout the year, we are looking back and reflecting on what has been and planning for an exciting future. Read about some of our early history on page 6-7. However, it’s safe to say that our Centenary year hasn’t quite gone as we originally envisaged! Thankfully we managed to have a scaled-back celebration for staff on the day with cake and a photo gallery before lockdown began. Despite the difficult circumstances we all find ourselves in, our staff are still working hard from home or safely on site to ensure the welfare of our animals and the continuation of our vital livestock research. Given our world-class expertise in virology and pathology, alongside our Virus Surveillance Unit and Biosafety facilities, we have been in discussions with the

NHS and the Scottish Government about how Moredun can best be used to help the national effort against COVID-19 – you can read the full update on page 4-5. The end of 2019 and the start of 2020 were busy for us on the travel front, as we organised and attended meetings across the UK. From the Shetland to Shropshire, see what we got up to on pages 8-9. Our research section includes progress made with a new infeed sea lice vaccine and some exiting work to develop a new generation Louping Ill vaccine. Keep safe!

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 | Spring/Summer 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: info@moredun.org.uk web: www.moredun.org.uk @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: The old cattle drovers stance at Dalnaspidal, on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. Photo: Kevin McCollum


NEWS

Photo | Jim Mackintosh

Princess Anne visits Moredun

Princess Anne receives an introduction to Moredun’s educational activities from Kevin McLean.

Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal attended a special event at Pentlands Science Park on 21st October to celebrate Moredun’s commitment to the contribution of livestock to food production, biodiversity and the environment. HRH The Princess Royal is a Patron of the Moredun Foundation, and has always been a great advocate of the Foundation’s mission. HRH The Princess Royal was joined by over 100 guests to hear more about Moredun’s

involvement in supporting the livestock

and welfare of our livestock and improving the

industry and working in collaboration with

sustainable efficiency of production.”

partner organisations to help promote the

During the visit, HRH The Princess Royal

wider benefits of livestock in sustainable

met guests including a group of postgraduate

food production, promoting biodiversity and

students and early career scientists along

minimising impact on the environment.

with those representing the farming industry,

Mr Ian Duncan Millar, Chairman of the

veterinary surveillance and the Equine Grass

Moredun Foundation said, “We were delighted to

Sickness Fund. Before leaving, Her Royal

welcome Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal to

Highness also participated in a tour

our event highlighting the critical role of livestock

of Moredun’s laboratories to speak first

to sustainable food production, biodiversity and the

hand to the scientists about the latest

environment. This topic is very timely as Moredun’s

research advances.

research is making a significant contribution to promote the highest standards of health

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

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News Steering public opinion towards supporting UK livestock farmers A panel discussion with industry representatives held at Moredun as part of the event with HRH The Princess Royal, highlighted key areas and suggestions on what the farming community should focus on in order to raise their profile. The forum was chaired by Moredun Regional Advisor Scott Brown of Murray Farmcare and involved speakers from across the sector who offered their points of view: Phil Stocker (National Sheep Association), Nigel Miller (Livestock Health Scotland), Bobby Lennox (BBC TWO’s ‘This Farming Life’), Lorna Dawson (SEFARI) and Jim Logan (Farmers Weekly British Sheep Farmer of the Year 2019).

what is produced in Scotland, and how to make a more concerted effort to promote the positives about the industry. It was agreed that the Scottish farming community already have great stories – they now need to be collated and pushed forward centrally. The key points taken from the discussion centered around building a solid science base, better promotion and marketing (including improved relationships with the press and media), more focus on customer satisfaction, and an increase in collaborative efforts, public engagement and education.

The overall message was based around steering public opinion. Attendees were keen to discuss how to get the public to appreciate

NSA’s Phil Stocker speaks at the event.

Lorna Dawson said: “We need to get our messages across in interesting and clear ways, and we start this process by earning the public’s trust. What we can do is give a balanced view, review our evidence and make sure that we empower people with the right knowledge so that they make the right decisions for their lives and the lives of the communities that the farmers and their families live in.”

Healthy Working Lives team end a productive year

The Healthy Working Lives team hand a cheque to a representative from the Thistle Foundation.

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

The fundraising activities of the Healthy Working Lives team have resulted in almost £3000 being raised for Moredun’s chosen charity for 2019-2020, the Thistle Foundation, who “support people living with disabilities, long term conditions or facing challenging life situations to live well.” Activities included participation in the Kiltwalk, bake sales, book and DVD sales, and the annual Christmas Fayre. Half of the proceeds of the Christmas Fayre (equating to £650) also went to the Search And Rescue Dog Association Scotland (SARDA) – we even had one of their furry recruits, Jess, attended the Fayre as a guest of honour! As a thank you for the fundraising, some of the Thistle team gave Moredun staff members a free class in Tai Chi.


NEWS

We worked in collaboration with the National Sheep Association and SRUC to develop a series of webinars on “Iceberg Diseases of Sheep”. The webinars were aimed at the farming community and designed to replace the nowcancelled roadshow events in partnership with the NSA which were to be run as nine workshops all over the UK.

Princess Anne expresses her support during COVID-19 crisis Patron of The Moredun Foundation, HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne), has sent a letter of support and appreciation to each of her patronages across the UK.

Photo | Jim Mackintosh

Success for Iceberg Diseases webinars

HRH The Princess Royal has always been a huge advocate for Moredun’s mission, which we will continue with to the best of our abilities.

Moredun’s Dr Chris Cousins and Dr Craig Watkins spoke about OPA and Johne’s Control in Sheep respectively. The webinars ran on 30th April, 13th May and 20th May, and were all at full capacity.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

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Photo | Kevin McCollum

Research

Moredun Research Institute.

Moredun’s response to Covid-19 pandemic 2020 was the year when everyone at Moredun was looking forward to celebrating 100 years since the founding of the organisation to conduct research into the prevention and control of livestock diseases. However, that was before the current Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK and now Moredun scientists are working very hard to support the fight against the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Moredun Research Institute is a world leading facility based near Edinburgh conducting research on infectious diseases of livestock resulting in development of diagnostic tests, disease surveillance strategies, innovative vaccines and strategic application of biosecurity measures to contain disease

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

outbreaks. Moredun scientists stepped up

Cov-2 to conduct the necessary research to

to provide help to both Scottish and UK

enable solutions to be developed to tackle

governments during the devastating foot

the disease.

and mouth disease outbreak in 2001 and

Testing is clearly a priority and there are

are looking to help now with the Covid-19

currently two types of test being used: the

pandemic by providing capability and capacity

test for the virus itself, the molecular (swab)

to help support NHS and Scottish Government

test, which lets you know who has active virus

colleagues.

infection, and the antibody test which can

With the rapid spread of Covid-19, caused

be done using a blood sample, usually taken

by SARS-Cov-2 virus across the world and

3-4 weeks after symptoms have disappeared,

now in UK, Moredun scientists, together

telling you who has been exposed to the virus.

with SRUC colleagues working in veterinary

The antibody tests may be useful in providing

surveillance, are currently in active discussion

data to help inform policy on strategies to

with colleagues at NHS to look at ways to help

move forward out of lockdown as they will

with testing capacity. In addition, Moredun has

enable us to determine what proportion of the

been in discussion with other researchers in

population has been exposed to the virus and

UK and in Europe to look at using Moredun’s

now recovered.

specialist containment facilities to work with

There is still much research to do on

high hazard group pathogens such as SARS-

understanding the development of immunity


Research

to infection, and whether you have achieved ‘herd immunity’, ideally through vaccination, which is when enough individuals are resistant to disease that the infection dies out in the population. This is important as it means even highly susceptible individuals (e.g. those with poor immunity) will be protected. Once control is achieved, the real key is keeping on top of it and that involves biosecurity and accurate surveillance. Our scientists are specialists in each of these areas and interact with a large number of research groups across the world and we can see very clear parallels between the campaigns that they have been involved in to control, for example, BVD, and the routes to controlling and preventing new emerging diseases like Covid-19. Moredun has a long history of developing vaccines to control viral diseases in livestock from our development of the Louping ill vaccine many years ago to the more recent success of a Malignant Catarrhal Fever vaccine, so we have a good track record in viral vaccines emerging from the Research Institute. The technologies used to produce these traditional vaccines are being replaced with new and exciting next-generation vaccines which allow more rapid vaccine development and many of the technologies that we’re now using in the Institute to develop novel vaccines for viral diseases of livestock are also being

used in the human vaccine sector to produce Covid-19 vaccines. While we’re not producing a Covid-19 vaccine in the Institute, we are actively supporting the international research effort in both vaccine and diagnostic production through our own research into understanding protective immunity against this virus, and by developing tools to understand how long that immunity lasts. We’re also collaborating with a number of other academic institutions to allow them to use our highly-specialised facilities, which are unique in Scotland, to safely work towards a solution for Covid-19 and our commercial arm, Moredun Scientific Ltd., is involved in safety testing of some of the Covid-19 vaccines being produced by commercial vaccine companies. Moredun has highly skilled and experienced staff who are dedicated to providing solutions to tackle infectious diseases of livestock and many of these diseases are zoonotic being transmitted between animals and people. It is thought that SARS-Cov-2 originated in a wet market in Wuhan in China possibly from bats or pangolins which then spread to people. An understanding of the origin and spread of zoonotic viruses is essential to help develop effective preventative strategies in a timely manner in the future.

Photo | AviateMedia

to SARS-Cov-2 and what the key protective immune responses are and how effective these responses are in protecting individuals from re-infection and/or further disease. For disease control in livestock, whether it’s caused by viruses or any other pathogens, the key to control is understanding clearly what pathogen you’re dealing with. This can only be done by accurate diagnostic tests which give you the information on “what” and “where”. Once you have this information you can make decisions on quarantining affected livestock, tracing routes of infection and vaccinating to prevent spread. Vaccines, where they are available, are still the safest and most effective way to control many diseases and we have a long history of producing vaccines and designing disease control strategies to prevent disease from occurring. There are plenty of good examples in the livestock sector where this has been successful (e.g. BVD or bovine respiratory diseases) and good control can be achieved by vaccination even when disease is endemic. Another important aspect is to understand how individuals develop immunity, either through vaccination or following infection, and how to measure it (for example by measuring antibody levels to the pathogen). This then allows you to determine the proportion of individuals in a population that are resistant

An aerial view of Pentlands Science Park, home of the Moredun Research Institute.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

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Centenary

✶✶

100 years of Research and Education

Moredun’s mobile laboratory became an iconic image in the Institute’s early years.

Nestled at the foot of the Pentland Hills near Roslin, Midlothian lies the home of the Moredun Foundation, our charitable organisation committed to promoting animal health and welfare through research and education. The year 2020 marks the Centenary of the organisation, with the actions of many inspiring individuals allowing Moredun to grow from its humble beginnings to worldwide success over the past 100 years.

following World War I, which saw an increased demand for home grown food and a significant rise in the market value of livestock. Livestock diseases can have a devastating effect on animal and human health, livelihoods and food security, and concerned farmers voiced their strong support for an organised body to conduct research into livestock diseases. In the 1920s, two diseases in particular claimed almost a third of the lambs born in Scotland: Louping Ill, which is a ticktransmitted viral infection of the central nervous system, and Braxy, a bacterial disease.

Disease detectives

The birth of the Animal Diseases Research Association Established by Scottish farmers, the work of Moredun is firmly centred on addressing the needs of the farming industry. Moredun’s research has led to the development of many vaccines, diagnostic tests and improved treatment strategies for farm animals across the globe. Its origins go back to the years

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

Equine Grass Sickness, which damages the nervous system, was also having a devastating effect on horses used for heavy labour on farms. In response to this, a group of enlightened farmers gathered in Edinburgh to discuss what could be done, and the Animal Diseases Research Association (ADRA) was born - the forerunner to the Foundation. Founded on 17th March 1920, the remit was to “research infectious diseases of livestock, and to apply the available knowledge to farm practice.”

Treatment for lamb dysentry (L) and Louping Ill vaccine (R).

In 1926, ADRA moved to a permanent home on what was the Goodtrees Estate in Moredun, south Edinburgh. The Moredun Research Institute opened its doors, employing vets and scientists, and over the decades, the scope of animal health work expand to cover goats, cows, pigs, chickens, horses, wildlife and fish. In the same year, ADRA received a donation of £1500 from its President to


CENTENARY

purchase and equip a mobile field laboratory. The aim was to use it to facilitate field investigations into livestock diseases. Power, lighting and a 14ft tent pole attached to the roof were included in the custom-made vehicle to make it easier to carry out experiments on the farm. Thanks to the joint efforts of the team on and off-site, within 10 years veterinary scientists were able to isolate the bacteria responsible for both Braxy and lamb dysentery and soon developed the first effective vaccines and treatment strategies. Scientists then went on to solve the mystery of Louping Ill, which was found to be caused by a virus transmitted by ticks, and a vaccine was soon developed. By the 1940s over half a million doses of vaccine and treatment products were produced and distributed by Moredun. Research gained momentum and further funding was secured to find out the causes of many different diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites.

soon became embedded in the heart of Moredun’s work and is still very much evident today.

Mobile Laboratory and Outreach Bus The mobile laboratory became something of an iconic image for Moredun over the years, and so we were pleased to announce last autumn that it is making a comeback in honour of our Centenary... With a few updates! The new bus will be used for outreach events where mobile technology will be taken out to the field, onto the farm and onto school grounds to further Moredun’s mission. Our Renault Master chassis came fresh out of the box from France, arriving onto Scottish soil at the start of December 2019. The body, which will house the mobile laboratory

Could you sponsor us? If you would like to play a part in Moredun’s future, we are currently searching for individuals and organisations to sponsor our new Mobile Laboratory and Outreach Bus by making a monetary donation. This will help us to cover the costs of its construction, as well as on-going running costs once it is on the road. We have three levels of corporate sponsorship available: Gold, Silver and Bronze (see side bar for details). Individual donations of any amount are also very welcome. To find out more about sponsoring our bus and the role it will play, please contact Lee Innes at lee.innes@moredun.ac.uk.

amongst other exciting additions, is being built from scratch at Lothian Vehicle Bodybuilders

Present day progress

Ltd. in Bathgate, West Lothian. We are very

One hundred years on, in a new location and still governed by farmers, Moredun’s mission to improve animal health and welfare remains steadfast as they continue to help find solutions to prevent and control disease. The strong partnership and multidisciplinary approach of farming and scientific expertise

much looking forward to seeing it completed

Sponsorship levels

and getting it on the road. You can follow the progress of the new outreach bus and mobile laboratory on our dedicated blog: https://moredun-bus.blogspot.com/

GOLD LEVEL £15K + VAT - 3 joint events with the vehicle - A gold name plaque on board

SILVER LEVEL £10K + VAT - 2 joint events with the vehicle - A silver name plaque on board

BRONZE LEVEL £5K + VAT - 1 joint event with the vehicle - A bronze name plaque on board Opening of the Moredun Institute 4th November 1926.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

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Out and About Peebles Sheep Health Evening

Livestock disease workshop We were involved in our second annual livestock disease workshop at Harper Adams University on 9 January 2020. This was again a highly successful event organised by Kate Phillips, one of our Welsh Regional Advisors and lecturer at HA.

fluke, sheep scab and progress on vaccine development at Moredun. The event was sponsored by MSD Animal Health and feedback from attendees was very positive, with a real buzz and lively discussions on the day. UK Chief Vet, Christine Middlemiss was highly complementary in her closing address

It was attended by over 150 farmers, vets,

on the quality of near market research being

students and SQPs. The morning’s topics

achieved at Moredun, and the delivery of this

included OPA, roundworm control, liver

throughout the day by the scientists involved.

Cattle Health, Minerals and Geese event A joint event from Moredun and Norvite saw 80 farmers and vets attending an animal health day at Rennibister Farm on Orkney on 19 November 2019, hosted by Al and Karoline Watson. The event included a range of subjects of interest to Orkney’s cattle farmers. Sheila Voas, Scotland’s Chief Vet, attended the event to explain Phase 5 of the Scottish BVD Eradication Programme and to listen to the Orkney beef farmers experiences of the scheme to date. David McClelland, Technical Director of Norvite, highlighted the importance of whole diet analysis, including forage, when calculating rations for pregnant beef suckler cows. This is in light of some interesting research looking at failure of passive transfer of antibodies from colostrum in newborn calves from dams fed very high levels of dietary Iodine. David stressed that checking forage iodine was particularly important on island and coastal farms where sea spray can increase forage iodine to very high levels. A Moredun study, led by Dr Beth Wells, suggested that the high numbers of geese co-grazing with young calves on Orkney were a risk to the spread of the parasite Cryptosporidium. This parasite is the main cause of scour in young calves on Orkney,

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

Moredun ran a sheep health meeting at the Peebles Hydro on 28 November 2019, kindly sponsored by Sir John Campbell of Glenrath Farms.

which, despite huge efforts to control it, is still causing problems on farms. It is also a cause for concern in the reservoirs that provide the public water supply for mainland Orkney, as this parasite can cause disease in humans. The study found that both geese and calves carried strains of the parasite with high potential to cause disease. Geese were found to carry a high number of different strains, which is thought to reflect the mobility of the birds, but could potentially provide a mechanism for transmitting the parasite between farms, regions and countries. This event was kindly sponsored by Norvite and involved much lively discussion and debate over superb lunchtime catering from a local Orkney catering firm.

Orkney farmers at the livestock health meeting at Rennibister farm.

Moredun’s Dr Chris Cousens shared her latest research results on the use of ultrasound scanning to control OPA (Jaagsiekte) in sheep flocks, one of the most important diseases facing the sheep industry. Recently Chris’ work has focused on a farm based approach investigating detection of OPA tumours by ultrasound scanning and has been working with flocks throughout Scotland for the past three years using a scan and cull policy. The results of this work look very promising with participating farms seeing a year on year decrease in scanning diagnosed sheep. Liver fluke, a parasite of high economic importance to sheep farmers, was another topic under discussion. Control of fluke in the light of increasing reports of resistance to some of the treatments was discussed by Dr Philip Skuce, focusing on up-to-date good practice advice, featured in Moredun’s entertaining and informative animated film “Fight the Fluke”.

Farm Animal Veterinary Society Conference: Bridget Taylor and Rachel Hall, of Moredun’s North of England Board of Regional Advisors, attended the very popular FAVS conference at Nottingham Vet School on 1 February 2020. They manned the Moredun stand and spoke to many of the vet student delegates. Bridget noted that the Moredun disease news sheets went down very well as they are at the right level for vet students and very useful for their revision. Thanks go to both Bridget and Rachel for representing Moredun at this conference and we are happy to report that following the conference, we had a flurry of vet student membership applications.


OUT AND ABOUT

Shipped off to Shetland

Philip with the Budge sisters.

Dr Philip Skuce, Senior Researcher in Parasitology at Moredun, attended a Monitor Farm event and writes about his experience.

I’m always happy to help at onfarm events, so was pleased to be asked by Quality Meat Scotland to contribute to a Monitor Farm event in August, but even more so when I realised where it was – Shetland! This is somewhere I’d never been but always wanted to visit! I was doubly pleased when I realised the event was being hosted by Bigton Farm, run by the Budge sisters, Kirsty and Aimee, who many of you will know as BBC Countryfile Farming Champions, and current stars of ‘This Farming Life’. The farm is on the SW of the Shetland mainland and comprises 300 hectares, most of which is permanent pasture and intensive grassland. They have 240 Shetland cross Cheviot ewes, which are kept on the stunning 80 hectares St Ninian’s Isle for most of the year, which can be accessed from the farm by a sandy causeway (known as a ‘tombola’, who knew!?) The sisters also have 70 spring calving Saler cross Shorthorn sucklers. Bigton is a spectacular place, but very challenging to farm. The programme for the day was a short ‘walk and talk’, firstly stopping at the farm’s barley fields, Bigton being one of the few farms on the island suitable for growing barley. We also stopped to inspect a very lush clover-rich

sward being grazed by the lambs, who’re doing very well on it. I then did my best to find some mud snails to help demonstrate the liver fluke life-cycle and on-farm risk assessment, but the soil proved too dry and sandy to find any, although the sisters did report fluke in other, more remote, parts of the farm. We then all decamped to one of the big sheds for a fluke overview, followed by a discussion around environmental management on the island, led by Hilary Burgess, representing the local Shetland Agri-Environment Group. We finished

the day with a fab barbeque and lots of home baking from Mrs Budge and family, needless to say, I didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day! I was very impressed with Shetland, stunning scenery, lots of history and very friendly locals, highly recommended! I was also very impressed with the island’s animal health and disease status and their strict biosecurity measures! They take great care to test for a number of key diseases, including BVD and Johne’s in cattle, and maedi visna, CLA and enzootic abortion in sheep, upon entry to the island at Lerwick harbour, under the auspices of the Shetland Animal Health Scheme (again, Hilary Burgess is very prominent here). Livestock are also treated to help prevent sheep scab and gastrointestinal parasites. As regards fluke, I would say Shetland is in a relatively envious position, due in part to being so far north and the underlying geology. They don’t have as much fluke as mainland Scotland, they don’t appear to have rumen fluke (yet) and it would appear that triclabendazole is still working! That said, all of these things merit further investigation and I would be keen to maintain contact with the farmers and advisors in Shetland to help keep it that way! https://www.qmscotland.co.uk/shetlandmonitor-farm

Kirsty and Aimee provide an update to attendees.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

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Research Research gets a huge boost towards a new generation Louping Ill vaccine

It is hoped that a new louping ill vaccine will also help protect red grouse.

An exciting partnership has been launched between Moredun and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to tackle the problem of louping ill, an often fatal tick-borne virus, to which sheep and red grouse are particularly susceptible. Moredun developed an effective vaccine in the 1930’s which was a game changer for many hill sheep farmers and grouse moor managers. However, this vaccine was recently withdrawn from manufacture.

Moredun’s Dr Beth Wells confirmed: “We have had many reports from our hill farming

against LIV, and GWCT is pleased to have been

members that they have been losing sheep, mainly

able to help in raising the funds for the Moredun’s

ewe hoggs to louping ill, some losing up to 25% of their replacement females which is a serious loss. We already have successful partnerships with GWCT and are delighted they have joined us in a new project to work towards a novel vaccine for louping ill control.” Research carried out at Moredun, under

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

work as a separate initiative to our core fundraising activity.” Ian Duncan Miller, Moredun’s Chair added: “This research illustrates the benefits of working in partnership and we are very pleased to be working alongside GWCT with this project, which

the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research

is of extreme importance to both of our industries.

Programme, has identified potential candidates

This project takes Moredun back to its roots in

for a new generation louping ill vaccine. This

tackling a really serious disease in the hills

now requires further research to ensure these In recent years, ticks have been ever increasing and moving into areas where they have not historically been a problem. Subsequently, tick borne diseases have spread with the ticks and in the absence of a louping ill vaccine, serious losses have been reported in both sheep and red grouse.

“This important work will be vital in the fight

candidates cause an immune response in sheep and that this response will protect the animals against louping ill. GWCT have galvanised the generosity of

and uplands.” The project is due to start this year and will be led by Principal Investigator, Dr David Griffiths and Head of Vaccines, Dr Alasdair

Scottish estate owners, to allow this research

Nisbet. If successful, the potential vaccine will

to be carried out at Moredun this year.

be pushed towards commercialisation as

Dr Adam Smith of GWCT said:

soon as possible.


RESEARCH

Researchers have a gut instinct for new in-feed sea lice vaccine A team of Scottish and international aquaculture experts is developing a pioneering oral vaccine for sea lice, helping the industry to tackle one of the biggest threats to the health and welfare of farmed Atlantic salmon. The project, supported with funding provided through the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), aims to develop a novel vaccine, which can be delivered through fish feed, following recent advances in the understanding of fish immune systems. The consortium draws upon the expertise of vaccinologists at the Moredun Research Institute and academic fish immunologists from the University of Maine in the United States. Project partners include academics from the University of Stirling‘s Institute of Aquaculture as well as industry specialists from the global fish feed producer BioMar, the innovative nanoparticle company SiSaf, and

veterinary medicines, physical and biological

experts in vaccinology Tethys Aquaculture. Dr Alasdair Nisbet, Head of Vaccines at

tools for parasite removal, and optimised farm

Moredun Research Institute said:

management practices. Despite existing

“As an integral part of this collaborative

research and prior testing of injectable

programme, Moredun researchers will use

vaccines, success has so far been limited with

protein-purification technologies, adapted from

no commercial solution currently being

our parasite vaccine programmes in terrestrial

available. Veterinary medicines continue to be

species, to enrich parasite extracts for the most likely protective antigens. We will also use our skills in fish immunology to help determine the direct

employed for control, however, sea lice are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment. The new approach to oral vaccination will

effects of vaccine-induced antibodies on the parasites. Finally, we will be assisting in the design and interpretation of the protection studies

deliver the vaccine via specially developed feeds that aim to improve fish resistance to parasites using advanced nanoparticle

in fish.”

technology. Innovative bio-engineering tools

Sea lice have become an enduring challenge for the global aquaculture industry,

will also target sea lice by triggering strong

with a significant impact on fish health and

immune responses in the skin of fish, rather

wellbeing. The cost of sea lice to the Atlantic

than delivering it through the bloodstream

salmon production industry is estimated to

alone. Sharing approaches employed to

exceed £50 million per year in Scotland alone.

control ticks in agriculture, the new vaccine

The parasites are currently managed and controlled using a range of measures, including

aims to directly target the proteins important for the parasite’s survival.

Sea lice infections are an on-going problem for the aquaculture industry.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020 11


Research Results of a nationwide field trial for a vaccine for the prevention of equine grass sickness After years of initial planning and preliminary studies, a unique nationwide field trial for a vaccine for the prevention of Equine Grass Sickness (EGS) has been completed. Supported by the Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund, the trial was co-ordinated by the Animal Health Trust, in collaboration with the veterinary schools of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Surrey. It involved over 1,000 horses and ponies residing on 120 premises across the UK which had been previously affected by a high incidence of EGS cases. Scientific evidence suggests that EGS may be associated with the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) type C, which is found commonly within soil and is capable of producing a range of toxins. It is possible to successfully prevent other similar diseases (such as tetanus and botulism) by vaccination, which suggests it could be possible to prevent EGS by vaccination. The trial aimed to determine the effectiveness of a C. botulinum type C vaccination in preventing EGS, by comparing incidence between groups of vaccinated and placebo-treated horses and ponies. Experimental challenge studies are the most commonly used research method to test the efficacy of vaccines for disease prevention. However it is not possible to experimentally reproduce EGS and therefore a field vaccine trial was the only available method of evaluating the effect of vaccination. The results of the field trial found both the C. botulinum type C vaccine and placebo injections were shown to be safe, with a low frequency of local injection site reactions being reported during the trial. The majority of horses and ponies in the vaccine group had a significant immune response following the primary vaccination course; C. botulinum type C antibody levels

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Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020

Grass Sickness remains a major cause of mortality in horses and ponies in Britain with more than 95% of cases proving fatal.

after the primary course of injections were on average 2.5 times higher than those before the first vaccination. The horses and ponies in the placebo treatment group showed little change in their antibody levels following their primary course of injections, which was expected. However, the overall incidence of EGS during the four-year field trial was considerably lower than anticipated, with just nine confirmed cases occurring amongst the enrolled horses and ponies over the entire trial period. Compared to the placebo-treated group, the risk of EGS was not significantly reduced in the vaccine group. Unfortunately, the trial failed to provide evidence of an effect

of vaccination in the prevention of EGS. However, consistent with previous research studies, both young animal age and low C. botulinum type C antibody levels were significantly associated with an increased risk of EGS. For the first time, findings from this trial confirmed that low C. botulinum type C antibody levels were found in horses and ponies affected by EGS before the onset of the disease, and the results have highlighted the key role a horse or pony’s immune response has in their risk of developing EGS. Therefore further research to fully elucidate the nature of the association between C. botulinum type C and EGS would be warranted.


RESEARCH

Best practice for the control of sheep scab through improved disease diagnosis Sheep scab is a highly contagious disease of sheep caused by the ectoparasitic mite Psoroptes ovis. The disease is endemic in the UK, notifiable in Scotland, and has significant economic impact through its effects on performance and animal welfare. Scab represents a significant economic and welfare issue for the livestock industry in Scotland with costs associated with treatment, control and reductions in performance of around £9 million per annum. Diagnosis of scab has historically been achieved through observation of clinical signs, e.g. itching, pruritus and wool loss and the detection of mites in skin scrapings. However, early stages of infestation are difficult to diagnose and sub-clinical animals can be a major factor in disease spread. Scientists at Moredun Research Institute have developed a blood test which can detect even sub-clinical cases, and is commercially available through Biobest Ltd. This test represents a significant improvement in disease control and will be critical in any future control or eradication programmes. However, for the test to have maximum impact on disease it needs to be applied correctly and incorporated into wider biosecurity protocols. This requires communication of key messages regarding the correct use of the test to stakeholder groups, including farmers, vets and suitably qualified persons (SQPs). One example is the importance of testing multiple individuals from a flock when using the test to determine flock-level disease status. We have shown that randomly testing at least 12 sheep greatly improves the chances of disease detection, regardless of the flock size. However, reports from Biobest Ltd indicate that many clients still test individuals or low numbers of sheep; using the test in this way reduces the ability to detect disease, resulting in mistaken ‘all-clears’. The test can also be used to target treatments, promoting the responsible

The cartoon series advices farmers on how to best test for sheep scab.

use of medicines and reducing over-use of endectocides thus slowing development of resistance. We worked with a professional animator, Selina Wagner (Blobina Animations) to develop a series of five cartoons to disseminate best practice advice promoting the use of the test (“Taking control of sheep scab”, “A test is best”, “Invest in the test”, “Who let the tups out?” “A race to the finish” and “It’s good to talk about scab”). Each cartoon covers an aspect of best practice use of the sheep scab blood test. The individual

cartoons are linked together through a poster, which introduces the characters within each cartoon. The cartoon series is eye catching, easy to digest, and deployable as either printed material or as digital copy through web-links and via social media platforms. PDF files of the cartoons are freely available and can be downloaded from the Moredun website: https://www.moredun.org.uk/research/ diseases/sheep-scab

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2020 13


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Moredun Magazine - Issue 19  

Spring/Summer edition of the Moredun Magazine

Moredun Magazine - Issue 19  

Spring/Summer edition of the Moredun Magazine

Profile for moredun

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