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Moredun ISSUE 15 | SPRING/SUMMER 2018


Smart engineering: developing new diagnostics Louping ill virus guidelines Celebrating 30 years of grass sickness research

In this Issue: p1

The Princess Royal visits Moredun

Director’s comment The future of farming technologies was

Photo | Jim Mackintosh


the focus of our knowledge exchange activities over recent months (page 8) and we have also been busy in our public engagement initiatives. These have focussed on education events to help encourage young people to think about

p2-3 News p4 p5


based industries (page 9).

PhD Day

I was delighted to help the Moredun Foundation’s Equine Grass Sickness Fund

Moredun Scientific and Pentlands Science Park update Smart engineering – sheep scab diagnostics


Out and About


Best practice guidelines for louping ill


taking up a career in science or in the land

Toxoplasma gondii: the world’s most successful parasite


Equine Grass Sickness conference


BVD eradication scheme

celebrate its 30th anniversary by opening their excellent conference in April. The event

A very warm welcome to this Spring/ Summer issue of the Moredun Magazine. It has been a very challenging start to the year for many farmers across the UK with wintry conditions and cold temperatures making for a late spring and a difficult lambing period. Now the warmer weather is finally with us we look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming agricultural shows and events.

provided horse owners, vets and equine

We have been very busy these last few months with lots of excellent initiatives, collaborative research projects and knowledge exchange events. We were delighted to host another visit from our Foundation Patron HRH The Princess Royal in November and to celebrate Moredun’s achievements and contributions to the livestock industry over the years (page 1). Looking to the future, this issue also features an overview of our innovative work in utilising smart engineering to enhance sheep scab diagnostics (page 6).

Day (page 4). It is fantastic to support these

industry representatives with research updates and the latest priorities in tackling this dreadful disease (page 12). Our research articles in this issue highlight the current situation with the Scottish BVD eradication scheme (page 13) and our work to help support the sheep industry after news that the louping ill vaccine has become temporarily unavailable (page 10). Finally I would like to once again congratulate our current PhD students for their excellent presentations at our annual PhD talented scientists as they progress through the early years of their research careers. We hope that you enjoy this issue of the magazine and thank you for your continued 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 ©2018 . 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 2018

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: Thinkstock


The Princess Royal attends a special event to celebrate Moredun’s unique partnership with the farming industry

L to R: Dr Stewart Burgess, Sheila Voas, Rod McKenzie.

HRH The Princess Royal is introduced to Andrew Wells from Crown Estate Scotland, Michael Durno and Fraser Shaw.

All the presentations emphasised the importance of collaboration and what can be achieved through effective partnership working between the farming, veterinary, policy making and scientific communities. Mr Ian Duncan Millar, Chairman of the Moredun Foundation said on the day, “We are delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal to our event showcasing what has been achieved through Moredun’s unique relationship with the farming industry and how new research and technologies will play a vital role going forward to ensure sustainable production of healthy livestock worldwide.” During her visit, HRH The Princess Royal met guests including a group of post-graduate students and early career scientists along with those representing the farming industry - including next generation farmers, Crown Estate Scotland, GALVmed (Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines) and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. HRH The Princess Royal also spoke with scientists involved in mastitis research, the Scottish Deer Health Survey and the bovine

viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) research group. The guests also enjoyed taking part in a lively panel discussion and debate on the value of hill farming, chaired by Nigel Miller, Chairman of Livestock Health Scotland and involving: Martin Kennedy, NFUS Vice President, Sybil McPherson, past chairman of NSA Scotland, Colin MacPhail, CA MacPhail Consulting and Andrew Barbour.

Photo | Jim Mackintosh

The Princess Royal was joined by over 100 guests at the Moredun Foundation to hear more about the key achievements resulting from this unique partnership over the years and to look towards some of the exciting new opportunities arising from the very latest technologies. The speakers at the event included Mr Rod McKenzie, Moredun Foundation North of Scotland Regional Board member; Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland; and Dr Stewart Burgess, a Principal Investigator at Moredun. The presentations highlighted Moredun’s achievements past and present including Moredun’s success in developing new vaccines and treatment strategies for many important sheep diseases - such as clostridial disease, louping ill and pneumonia – and how research by Moredun into developing diagnostics for pestiviruses helped in Scotland’s ambitious programme to eradicate BVD. Looking forward, Moredun’s Dr Stewart Burgess gave the audience a glimpse of how some of the very latest technologies might be applied to significantly improve how we can rapidly detect and diagnose livestock and zoonotic pathogens in the future.

Photo | Jim Mackintosh

Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal joined us in November at a special event to celebrate Moredun’s rich heritage and unique partnership with the farming industry.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018


News Get ready to fight the fluke! We are delighted to be adding to our hugely popular animation series with Fight the Fluke due for release very shortly! Joining forces once again with animator Selina Wagner (Blobina Animations) this latest short animated film provides an engaging platform to highlight the important points of the liver fluke lifecycle and the key messages for controlling this troublesome parasite. Fight the Fluke, the third film in the series, has been funded by AHDB and the Moredun Foundation. Keep an eye out on Twitter (@MoredunComms) and on our website for further news of its launch.

Moredun staff take part in world’s largest charity sleep out event Members of Moredun’s Senior Management Team swapped their officewear for their sleeping bags to take part in the world’s largest charity sleep out event back in December. Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park aimed to help break the cycle of homelessness by inviting people to come together and brave the bitter winter weather for one night to help raise awareness and funds to get people back on their feet. On 9th December the team from Moredun – comprising Julie Fitzpatrick, Lee Innes, George Walker, John Murray, Jill Hodgson and Richard Mole - joined other corporate teams and individuals at the mass sleepout in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.


Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

Preparing for the big sleep out L to R: John Murray, Jill Hodgson, Lee Innes, Julie Fitzpatrick, Richard Mole and George Walker.

Despite the temperatures plummeting to well below freezing, spirits were high amongst the team who managed to raise an amazing £5,240 for the charity.

In total, the Sleep in the Park event raised £4 million for Social Bite’s projects which will hopefully help 800 people out of homelessness over the next 18 months.


Researchers create new network to combat anthelmintic resistance in livestock Researchers from Moredun have joined colleagues from institutes across Europe to initiate a coordinated approach in tackling anthelmintic resistance in ruminants. The group of sixty researchers have formed a new network called COMBAR – COMbatting Anthelmintic Resistance in Ruminants. COMBAR will be supported over the next four years by the EU COST programme and aims to harmonise procedures, train young

researchers and generate new data to support the transition to sustainable worm control approaches. The new network will focus on three areas: diagnostics, socio-economic aspects and novel control approaches. Johannes Charlier (Kreavet), Chair of the Action commented, “For maintaining the health, welfare and productivity of ruminant livestock, we need to shift the way we use anthelmintics and develop a broader panel of control options including novel diagnostics, vaccines, nutraceuticals and pasture management procedures. Thanks

to the COST programme, we will be able to create an important and diverse network across Europe. Along the process, we aim to reach out to industry, regulators and various stakeholders to share new data and discuss recommendations for best practices and new solutions.” For further info, including access to the complete description of COMBAR aims and programme, please visit the EU Cost Programme website (

Scientists meet to discuss progress towards new parasite vaccines The Moredun led consortium behind the EU Horizon 2020 funded project PARAGONE held its third principal meeting at the University of Cordoba in March. PARAGONE is a partnership of academic and commercial organisations from across Europe and beyond working to develop vaccines to control several globally important livestock parasites. Now in its third year the project has several parasite vaccine prototypes in various stages of development and continues to develop a strong cohort of veterinary vaccinologists for the future. Hosted by Professors Jose Perez and Alvaro Martinez-Moreno from the University of Cordoba, this year’s consortium meeting provided a vigorous platform for discussion on the progress of each of PARAGONE’s vaccine prototypes, as well as allowing an opportunity for all partners to network and discuss practical and commercialisation implications for each vaccine. The meeting also encouraged early career scientists to contribute and to learn about opportunities for them in the final year of the project, with several sessions focusing on

PARAGONE partners outside the University of Cordoba, Spain.

cross-partner scientific and training activities. Across the three-day meeting summaries were presented on the progress towards vaccines against cattle gastrointestinal roundworms, liver fluke, Teladorsagia circumcincta, poultry red mite and Psoroptes ovis. The development of novel immunological tools, bespoke bioinformatic analysis pipelines and the assessment of new vaccine delivery systems were also discussed. Representing Moredun at the meeting were PARAGONE coordinator Jacqui Matthews along with

Richard Mole, Stewart Burgess, Alasdair Nisbet, Dan Price and Yolanda Corripio-Miyar. The coordinators look forward to welcoming the PARAGONE consortium back to Edinburgh for their final meeting in spring 2019. PARAGONE is a four-year EU Horizon 2020 funded project involving 17 partners comprising academic members from six European countries, Uruguay and China and four commercial partners from across the EU. For more information please visit the project website (

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018


News Celebrating our postgraduate student community Moredun is delighted to have a talented group of postgraduate students amongst its research base; supervising and supporting them as they study for their PhDs. Every year we hold a PhD Day to celebrate the excellent work being undertaken by our students and to provide a platform for them to gain valuable experience in communicating their work to a wider audience. The PhD Day in April this year was once again a fantastic event showcasing the diverse range of topics being studied by our current group of students. The day also provides an opportunity to identify two students to put forward for the annual SEFARI Science for Life event. Additional congratulations therefore go to Anna Katarina Schilling and Ana Herrero who will go on to represent Moredun at this year’s event.

Participating students and their presentation topics  Alba Crespi The microbiome of the bovine lung 

Ana Herrero

Insights into the role of Desmozoon lepeophtherii in Atlantic salmon Complex Gill Disease 

Adrian Rodriguez

Early detection of sheep scab using smart collars 

Anna Katarina Schilling

Leprosy in squirrels 

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

Holly Hill

Pathogenesis and Immunogenicity of Atypical Porcine Pestivirus 

Gaston Caspe

Accuracy and impact of diagnostic approaches for assessing infectivity following chlamydial abortion in vaccinated and non– vaccinated ewes 

Claire Paton

A catchment-based approach to studying Cryptosporidium transfer from land to water

Katie Hildersley

Examining the presence and function of tuft cells in ovine abomasum tissue following parasitic nematode infection


António Pacheco

Genetic parameters for Faecal Egg Counts, Dag scores and Live Weights in Scottish Blackface sheep

Maria Contreras Garcia MicroRNA dysregulation in Ovine Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma

Grace Cuthill Detection of fluke infective stages in the environment

Rebecca Ji Bengtsson

Genome Analysis of L.intracellularis: Insights into Phylogeny, Population Structure and Host Specificity 

Tanja Lepore

Specific diagnostic tools for protozoan infection in ruminants  Derek Elseby Antimicrobial Resistance in Wild Deer

Moredun Scientific/Pentlands Science Park

New dairy facility for milking studies A new purpose built dairy unit has been added to the Moredun Bioservices animal facilities. The unit extends our capacity for studies to test novel and enhanced vaccines, therapeutics and immunostimulatory products in lactating dairy cattle. The main use of the facility will be for mastitis studies for Moredun Scientific’s animal health industry clients.

mastitis control. However, as the pressure to reduce the use of such products in agriculture increases there is a growing need for improved vaccines and immunostimulants to prevent disease outbreaks. The disease can be caused by a wide range of organisms, the major pathogens include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcal species and Escherichia coli. Moredun Scientific have validated bovine infection models for key mastitis pathogens which will be used to test their clients’ products in the new dairy unit.

Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) is primarily caused by bacterial intramammary infection and remains the most costly disease impacting the dairy industry. Antimicrobials are widely used in the dairy industry for

Both bovine and ovine mastitis are research topics at the Moredun Research Institute which includes research into novel vaccine candidates and approaches for Moredun’s new dairy unit.

protection of cattle and sheep against mastitis.

PSP planning for change

The announcement in November of the strategic partnership between Moredun and SRUC triggered confirmation that SRUC divisions currently located in the Allan Watt Building in Bush Estate would be moving to Pentlands Science Park. To accommodate our new tenants there has been some changes within the main International Research Centre (IRC) and consideration has been taken to maximise potential for sharing services and

facilities within the building to enhance collaborative working. Moredun established a Project Team led by Deputy Director, Colin McInnes, PSP Park Manager, George Walker, and Jacqui Tomlins, Facilities Manager to work with SRUC, architects and M&E consultants to plan the moves and required fit-outs. MRI internal moves and the transfer of APHA to the Glencorse Building require to be completed by late July to enable the main SRUC fit-out to commence in August. This is due for completion by December with occupation scheduled for January 2019. Several building warrant applications have already been submitted. While all the practical work is being planned, there is a great deal of lease documentation to be put in place and George is working with SRUC, MRI and APHA colleagues and our solicitors, Shepherd & Wedderburn, to achieve this. In other park news, capital expenditure priorities for the Park for 2018/19 were agreed as we look to maintain the buildings, plant and other infrastructure as the Park fast approaches its 25th anniversary. Quotient vacated its laboratory and office suite in

Douglas House to move into its new £25m headquarters on the Biocampus at the end of March and we are now in advanced discussions for a new tenant to take over this space which will also require a major fit-out. It has been an extremely busy period for PSP staff and we would like to thank our committed team for all their hard work ensuring the successful completion of the SRUC and other new tenant integration. We look forward to exciting times ahead with the changes set to deliver new opportunities for Moredun and continuing success for the science park.

Jacqui and George progress the SRUC plans with Oberlanders (architects), Harley Haddow (M&E consultants) and Thomas & Adamson (QS).

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018


Research Smart engineering developing a new wave of sheep scab diagnostics Sheep scab is the most important ectoparasitic disease of sheep in the UK and it represents a significant threat to both animal welfare and farm economics. In the current climate of widespread antibiotic and anthelmintic resistance and especially after the first report of resistant sheep scab mites to injectable treatment, it is no longer appropriate to apply whole flock treatments without a confirmed diagnosis. At the same time, farmers are extremely busy and the prospect of waiting days for a diagnosis or having to gather animals more than once is not desirable, meaning that a rapid and accurate diagnosis would really make a difference in the battle against this and other diseases.

Something that has been at the core of agricultural research, and that should really be exploited to its full potential, is the use of the modern technologies to make farming more efficient and less labour intense - what is now called “smart farming”. Among the emerging technologies one in particular can be applied to disease diagnosis by allowing diagnostic labs to be transferred into the field. Developed from engineering methods for the fabrication of microchips (which are commonly used in the electronic industry), the technology consists of a fabricated plastic platform that can analyse extremely small amounts of fluid (just a few drops of blood, for example) using interconnected networks of channels measuring less than a few millimetres. These “pocket” laboratories have the potential to automate all the processes involved in performing a diagnostic test and can provide reliable (comparable to the centralised lab),


Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

“Pocket” laboratories have the potential to automate all the processes involved in performing a diagnostic test and could provide reliable and rapid on-site results.

rapid (within minutes) and on-site results. A particularly smart evolution of these technologies, is the use of paper to fabricate these devices. Paper is cheap, easy to source and biodegradable. Chips made from paper are low-cost and do not require external power sources. Whilst fabrication techniques and machinery for production are usually less expensive, with minimal technical expertise required.


A PhD project, in collaboration between the Moredun Research Institute and HeriotWatt University, allowed the sheep scab blood test to be transferred onto a paper device. The fabrication technique used for these devices was based on a combination of paper cutting by laser machine and packaging through thermal lamination. The device was fabricated at a very low cost (ÂŁ0.30), with a simple, rapid and versatile method which did not require special expertise. The next step will be the validation of the test results on the paper devices and to finalise the design that will be available as a pen-side test for sheep scab. The important outcomes of this collaborative project were the process of thinking outside the box (by exploiting available technologies in new ways) and promoting the collaboration between experts from different disciplinary fields. However of most importance Psoroptes ovis mite under an electron microscope.

was targeting the research at the end-user, i.e. what needs should be addressed and what outcomes are available to them as practical solutions to solve challenging situations. For further information please contact Valentina Busin (valentina.busin@glasgow. and Stewart Burgess (stewart.burgess

Professor Neil Sargison (R(D)SVS)

disease at the animal-side (a pen-side test), to use before incoming stock join the main flock. Therefore, sheep scab represented an ideal model to evaluate how smart engineering can be adapted to solve relevant problems in a practical way.

Photo | Š

In the specific case of sheep scab, the recent introduction of a blood test for early (sub-clinical) diagnosis of the disease has considerably improved the tools available to combat the disease. The game changer now would be the possibility to diagnose the

Sheep displaying symptoms of a sheep scab infestation.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018


Out and About Lothians Monitor Farm collaborations between Moredun and the

Dr Stewart Burgess was delighted to be invited to the Lothians Monitor Farm meeting back in March, which focused on innovative machinery and the future of farm technology.

group in the future. The Lothians Monitor Farm – a partnership between neighbouring farms Saughland and Prestonhall – is one of nine monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative

The group were very interested to hear about

by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB

new technologies which could make the biggest impact on livestock profitability in the next 25 years. Stewart provided an insight into the work himself and colleagues are conducting involving portable DNA sequencing, pen-side diagnostic tests and remote sensors; which have the potential to transform the way that we manage disease in our livestock. It is believed that the combination of these technologies

The Lothians Monitor Farm – a partnership between Saughland and Prestonhall Farms.

and their successful integration into existing farming practices can significantly reduce the burden of disease, improving animal welfare and productivity. It was a great opportunity to talk to the group of forward thinking farmers and we look forward to further events and potential

Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses. For more information about Moredun’s work looking to use cutting edge technology to improve diagnostics please see pages 6-7.

In January Moredun, together with the Roslin Institute and BBSRC, hosted a one day workshop for researchers interested in the application of 3D organoid cultures and other in vitro systems.

L to R: Dr Liam Morrison, Prof Andy Tait, Prof Jonathan Wastling.


Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

Organoid culture systems contain stem cell populations that can differentiate into multiple organ specific cell types providing a laboratory system which can enhance studies into pathogens and disease. They can be utilised to help improve our understanding of how pathogens are able to invade and establish infections in host animals and to assist our research into the early immune responses induced following infection. The focus of the workshop was enteric pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and the development of gut organoids.

Photo | Kevin McCollum

Organoid cultures to study pathogens in vitro Forthcoming Shows & Events 2018 Wednesday 30th May 2018 NSA Scot Sheep Ballantrae, South Ayrshire Thursday 21st – Sunday 24th June 2018 The Royal Highland Show Ingliston, Nr Edinburgh Wednesday 18th July 2018 NSA Sheep Event Malvern, Worcestershire


Science Festival This year was another fantastic experience at the Edinburgh International Science Festival – and quite possibly our busiest yet – as we took our interactive Disease Detectives exhibition back to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Our scientists guided the children through a series of interactive laboratory testing activities, aimed at helping Farmer Fred discover what was wrong with his flock of sheep. In addition for this year, following the success at the Royal Highland Show, we also ran our food safety activity with Moredun scientists helping visitors to don their detective hats once more to identify the correct culprit from the line-up of foodborne pathogens. The hands on activities about detecting and diagnosing disease were very well received by the children and adults alike and proved to be highly popular with over 300 visitors taking part.

Finding the culprit – foodborne pathogen activity.

Drawing Toxoplasma parasites.

Peebles High School Science Event Photo | RHET

In April we were delighted to take part in a food and farming day organised by the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) at Peebles High School. Moredun scientists ran hands on workshops throughout the day giving the large group of 12 to 13 year olds an opportunity to get to grips with diagnostic techniques and provided an insight into the science behind livestock health. We would like to thank Scientific Laboratory Supplies for kindly providing equipment for Getting to grips with diagnostic techniques.

Searching for worm eggs.

Thank you As a registered charity the Moredun Foundation is indebted to its members and supporters for donations to help ensure that vital areas of our work can continue. Special thanks must go to the following organisations, all of whom have made donations to Moredun Foundation in the last twelve months:

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Border Union Agricultural Society Buckland Charitable Trust Crown Estate Scotland MSD Animal Health Perth Ram Society RHASS

the workshop.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018



Photo | Mark Hamblin/2020VISION/CNPA

Louping ill virus - Best practice guidelines in the absence of a vaccine

Ticks survive well in upland environments.

The louping ill vaccine, which was successfully developed and initially produced at Moredun in the 1930s, has become temporarily unavailable resulting in low stocks across the country. Although remaining stocks of vaccine have been allocated to vets in areas of the UK where louping ill is most prevalent, the absence of a vaccine is likely to have a major impact on many sheep farms and grouse moors. To support the industry at this time Moredun, along with collaborators from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, MSD, Elanco and Livestock Health Scotland, have produced a best practice guidelines document (please visit

Engorged tick.


Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

the Moredun website for a copy

What is Louping Ill?

( diseases/ticks-tickborne-diseases). In the guidelines, advice for the management of sheep flocks in the absence of a LIV vaccine include important points

Louping ill is a disease caused by a virus, louping ill virus (LIV) which is transmitted by ticks and is principally seen in sheep and red grouse. Ticks become infected when they feed on a host animal with high levels of LIV in their blood. The virus establishes in the salivary gland of the tick, where it can remain from one year to the next and is injected into another host when the tick feeds again. Infected sheep develop fever accompanied by depression and lack of appetite. Later, during the sub-acute phase of the disease, muscule tremors often develop; seizures, paralysis, coma and death can also occur. Adult sheep, which are vaccinated or previously exposed to infected ticks, tend to be immune and lambs of such ewes are protected for the first 2-3 months of life by colostral antibodies, as long as the lamb receives enough colostrum after birth.

for farmers and moorland managers to consider - from liaising with your vet to develop a working tick control plan for your individual farm and circumstances, to how to best manage unprotected lambs and naĂŻve sheep. The document also includes advice on treatments for tick control (including in young lambs and tups), along with factors impacting on the efficacy of tick control treatments, biosecurity tips and wildlife and habitat management. It is hoped that this document will help best practice decision making while the vaccine is unavailable.

Absence of a vaccine is likely to impact on hill sheep farms.


Toxoplasma gondii : the world’s most successful parasite Toxoplasma gondii came under the spotlight in April with two events in Edinburgh discussing the ‘clever’ single celled protozoan parasite.

Friend or Foe? The parasites that live inside us

Dubbed ‘the most successful parasite in the world’ due to its ability to infect all warmblooded animals, including approximately one fifth of the human population, Toxoplasma gondii is a fascinating parasite but one that can pose risks to human and livestock health.

Toxplasma tissue cyst under the microscope.

Keeping the public informed and scientific research up to date is therefore of great importance.

A One Health Approach to Tackle Toxoplasmosis Scientists from the UK, Europe and USA came together at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to discuss the current incidence and impact of toxoplasmosis in the UK and how to use a one health approach to prioritise areas for prevention and control. This

interdisciplinary workshop on 4th April included presentations from Moredun, including Dr Beth Wells who discussed the impact of Toxoplasma in the environment whilst Dr Frank Katzer provided a veterinary perspective. An outcome from the symposium will be a report summarising the workshop discussions and making recommendations for Scotland for the best way to tackle toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasma was also on the bill at this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival at a sell out event chaired by BBC’s Mark Stephen which examined the fascinating relationships we have with a whole range of parasites that live inside us. Panel members included Moredun’s Professor Lee Innes, Dr Claire Alexander from the Scottish Parasite Diagnostic Laboratory and Professor Rick Maziels from the University of Glasgow. The evening managed to be informative and fun; filled with great conversation, debate and intriguing questions about how parasites can not only cause disease but may also be beneficial to their human host. A great way to end a thought provoking and productive day. Both of these events were organised with the support of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland, Heriot Watt University, the University of the West of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Disease File:

Toxoplasmosis Toxoplasmosis is an important infectious disease of sheep and humans that may result in abortion, stillbirth or foetuses born with congenital disease. The disease is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most successful parasites worldwide, as it can infect all warmblooded animals, including humans. It is very small, consisting only of a single cell and is transmitted through ingestion of oocysts shed by infected cats or by the consumption of undercooked infected meat. Contamination of the environment (farmland, gardens, rivers and coastal waters) by Toxoplasma oocysts is widespread and the parasite can survive for many years in cool and moist conditions. Sheep may become infected by ingesting infective oocysts on pasture or in contaminated feed and water. If the parasite infects the pregnant animal for the first

time, Toxoplasma can cause disease in the placenta and the developing foetus. Infection early in pregnancy may result in abortion, whereas infection later in pregnancy may cause still birth, a mummified foetus or birth of a live but weak lamb. Following infection, sheep develop immunity against the parasite which will protect them against disease in a subsequent pregnancy. There is an effective vaccine to prevent congenital toxoplasmosis in sheep. Moredun has a long-standing history of working with farmers and vets to improve our understanding of how the infection is spread, how the parasite causes disease and how the immune system fights the parasite. Research at Moredun was instrumental in the efficacy testing of the ovine Toxoplasma vaccine: ToxovaxTM. To help prevent transmission of

Toxoplasma infections to people it is recommended that you wash hands after contact with infected materials, such as cat faeces, contaminated meat, infected ewes and lambs during lambing or handling the live vaccine. Consumption of undercooked meat containing T. gondii tissue cysts is also a risk factor. Fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly prior to eating to help remove any T. gondii oocysts that may be present. Most people will only experience mild flu-like symptoms if they become infected with Toxoplasma, however pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals are major risk groups. For more information about Moredun’s work on Toxoplasma gondii please see our website ( diseases/toxoplasmosis).

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018 11

Research Photo | M Lebreton

Equine Grass Sickness conference Equine grass sickness causes damage to parts of the nervous system which control involuntary functions, producing the main clinical sign of gut paralysis.

The Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund (EGSF) was launched in 1988 by Moredun and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies to provide a research hub dedicated to improving treatment, finding the cause and developing means of preventing this devastating disease. This April, to mark the 30th anniversary of the charity, a special research conference was held at Pentlands Science Park. Moredun’s Chief Executive, Professor Julie Fitzpatrick opened the event which saw over 100 distinguished delegates gather to hear the latest research updates from a number of excellent speakers: • Elspeth Milne gave an update on her work looking at the residual damage caused by the disease. This research has been enabled by generous owners who have donated their horses at the end of their lives, having previously survived a battle with the disease.

L to R: Rebecca Seath, Yvonne Maclean, Carina Cuthbert, Sam Seath with the Heidi Award for Supporter of the Year.


Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018

• Joy Leng provided an update on her research into the faecal bacteria and biomarker discovery in equine grass sickness (EGS). In particular four metabolites were identified in the urine of horses with EGS which could potentially lead to a noninvasive means of diagnosis. • Luanne Hunt gave an update on her current project looking at mycotoxigenic fungi as a possible cause of the disease. • Jo Ireland spoke about the nationwide vaccine trial investigating Clostridium botulinum type C, the data from which is currently being analysed. • EGS nurse Lisa Henderson spoke about nursing chronic cases and the difficult welfare questions this raises. • Rachel Jago presented her findings on body weight in chronic cases, and whether this can be used to predict survival. • Scott Pirie gave a talk on how to reduce the risk of EGS. The conference ended with John Keen chairing a Q&A panel with additional guest panellists Bruce McGorum of the Dick Vet, Richard Newton of the Animal Health Trust and Roly Owers of World Horse Welfare. During the day Roly Owers presented the Heidi Award for EGSF Supporter of the Year 2018 to Yvonne Maclean, organiser of the Ross-shire Fun Show. Carina Cuthbert also attended on behalf of Hunter Macdonald,

In 1907 the first cases of the disease were identified in Angus In the early 1920s Professor Gaiger, one of the founding members of the Animal Diseases Research Institute (now Moredun), helped investigate potential causes, eliminating many theories. After the Second World War the introduction of the tractor led to reduced numbers of working horses and interest in the disease waned. Not for another 25 years did the disease start to come to attention again with the rise of the pleasure horse. In 1971 Moredun scientist John Gilmour started to examine the epidemiology of the disease, over the next two decades becoming the world authority on the disease. He was aided in his efforts by horse owner Anne Wilson, who having lost her favourite Connemara mare to the disease, helped establish the Grass Sickness Fund, raising funds for essential equipment. In 1988 Moredun and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies joined forces to formally launch The Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund.

Lindsay Macrae and Sarah Milne to receive a special 30th Anniversary Award for Best Team as invaluable supporters of Yvonne’s inventive fundraising initiatives. The Heidi Award was donated in 2015 by Sam and Rebecca Seath in memory of their mare Heidi who was lost to grass sickness. For more information about equine grass sickness and the work of the fund please visit the EGSF website (


A step closer to BVD eradication in Scotland From the 3rd April this year Phase 4 of the Scottish BVD Eradication Scheme was fully implemented and requires anyone bringing in risky animals to test them for BVD or lose their BVD “negative” herd status.

Those classed as risky animals are:

Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) is an endemic viral disease of cattle. Infection of cattle with BVD can cause a wide range of health problems such as abortion, infertility, respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders. The disease is mainly spread by a small population of persistently infected (PI) cattle. PI cattle contract the virus from their mothers in the uterus while their immune systems are immature, allowing them to become immunologically tolerant to the virus. As a result PI cattle remain persistently infected and continue to spread the virus for the rest of their lives. Due to its significant economic and welfare implications, the Scottish cattle industry, supported by the Scottish Government, embarked upon an ambitious bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) eradication scheme in 2010. Working together with colleagues from SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) and EPIC (Scottish Government-funded Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks) Moredun scientists have helped to inform BVD eradication policy by conducting research to understand the epidemiology, transmission and host response to the virus.

Moredun’s Dr George Russell has been active in developing a rapid method to characterise thousands of BVD isolates by sequencing part of the virus from blood samples submitted by approved diagnostic laboratories. This analysis has led to the creation of a unique BVD biobank for Scotland and the wider UK. This repository contains vital data that will inform future disease surveillance and farm-level interventions. The impact of the BVD eradication scheme has been significant with the majority (>90%) of Scottish breeding holdings now having a negative BVD status. This result is due to great efforts by scientists, farmers and vets to test animals, identify the sources of BVD infection and remove them. However completely eradicating BVD is difficult: as the numbers of infected cattle decrease, the harder it is to identify the few remaining PI cattle. Eight years since the Scottish cattle industry embarked on this initiative, the Scottish BVD Advisory Group have agreed that there should be further restrictions on “notnegative” herds to prevent disease spread and continue to move the scheme forward. From the 3rd April this year Phase 4 of the BVD eradication scheme was fully implemented. This phase rewards keepers who buy cattle responsibly, and requires anyone bringing in risky animals to test them for BVD or lose their BVD “negative” herd status.

• Calves born on Scottish non-breeding holdings that have not been individually tested for BVD • Cattle moving off a Scottish “not negative” herd that do not have an individual negative status • Cattle without individual BVD test results coming from herds outside Scotland. As we move closer to eradicating BVD from the Scottish cattle herd, future research from Moredun and colleagues within SEFARI and EPIC will focus on developing methods for targeting remaining sources of infection so the disease can be completely eradicated from Scotland. For further information about the BVD eradication scheme please visit the Scottish Government website ( farmingrural/Agriculture/animal-welfare/ Diseases/disease/bvd/whatsnew). For information about the BVD eradication programme in Northern Ireland please visit the Animal Health and Welfare NI website (http:// For information about the voluntary schemes in England and Wales please visit the BVDFree England Scheme ( and Gwaredu BVD ( wales/farmingconnect/gwaredu-bvd) websites respectively.

Moredun Magazine | Spring/Summer 2018 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.


Profile for Moredun

Moredun Magazine issue 15  

Spring/Summer 2018 edition of the Moredun Magazine

Moredun Magazine issue 15  

Spring/Summer 2018 edition of the Moredun Magazine

Profile for moredun

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