BBSRC’s Animal Health Research Club and Scottish Government to invest £6M to improve the health of livestock

LONDON, 1-4-2015 — /EuropaWire/ — BBSRC’s Animal Health Research Club (ARC) has announced over £6M of funding for research to improve the health of livestock.

Eight studies will take place at institutions around England and Scotland in farmed fish, poultry, sheep, pigs and cattle to understand and combat pervasive and costly diseases in these species which cost UK farmers millions of pounds a year.

£5.8M has come from BBSRC with just over £800,000 from the Scottish Government

This round of grants concludes the funding from the five-year ARC, a consortium between BBSRC, the Scottish Government and leading companies from the animal breeding, animal health and farming sectors.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “By targeting these livestock diseases the Animal Health Research Club projects have the potential to protect farmed animals and food supplies and save UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year.

“The Club shows that the public sector and private industry can work together to fund and support excellent research tackling important research challenges.”

Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland is the home to world-leading scientific research into livestock health and diseases. The impact of diseases can be crippling to the livestock sector, and costs industry millions of pounds every year. It is particularly important that research is carried out that has direct relevance to and the involvement of industry, and the Scottish Government are happy to have funded such research through supporting the Animal Health Research Club.”

The ARC Industry members pay a subscription fee which allows them to be involved in remit formation and grant decision making.

In total £10.8M of ARC grant funding has been allocated to 15 research projects, from this round and an initial round of grants awarded in 2013.

For more information about ARC visit

This announcement follows the launch of government’s agri-tech strategy, developed in partnership with industry to ensure that the UK can benefit from agriculture’s


Notes to editors

The final round of funded ARC projects are:

Genetics of host responses to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus – Professor Alan Archibald, Professor Stephen Bishop, Dr Tahar Ait-Ali  and Professor Tanja Opriessnig from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh – £844,979

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is a viral disease of pigs that causes major economic losses. The PRRS virus (PRRSV) accounts for around a third of infectious disease costs to the US pig industry, approximately $600M annually. It is the most costly disease to the European pig industry.

By identifying genetic markers that are associated with between-animal differences this study will provide tools to help select pigs for increased PRRS resistance, reducing the impact of PRRS virus infections in breeding herds.

Studying the genetics of host responses to PRRSV in sows is expensive and difficult. The researchers will study the relationship between the responses of pig blood cells to infection with PRRSV in the laboratory and the responses of sows to vaccination in order to assess in vitro approaches to studying the genetics of susceptibility to infectious diseases such as PRRS.

Is multistrain infection by Dichelobacter nodosus important in the severity of footrot and in the management of disease? – Professor Laura Green, Dr Kevin Purdy and Professor Matthew Keeling from the University of Warwick – £601,861. In collaboration with Dr Jasmeet Kaler from the University of Nottingham – £17,771.

Footrot is very common in sheep in the UK, affecting more than 95% of sheep flocks. Footrot is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, a bacterium that causes inflammation of the skin of the foot which leads to lameness. Using swab samples collected from the feet of sheep kept under different managements, the study will determine which molecular factors in Dichelobacter nodosus and which managements in sheep are most important in disease progression and how these lead to disease spread and persistence, informing on potential approaches to improve flock resilience to the disease.

Macrophage Biology and Disease Susceptibility in Poultry – Professor David Hume, Professor David Burt, Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Helen Sang and Professor Peter Kaiser from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh – £951,944

Sustainable production of meat and eggs requires the protection of poultry against a wide range of pathogens.

Some of the current methods, including the use of antibiotics, are becoming less effective or have been banned because of hazards to human health. Researchers have identified a protein in birds called CSF-1 which controls the numbers of macrophages – a type of white blood cell important in immune response. The study will test the ability of this protein to induce changes in growth and development of the immune system, and test the possibility that it could improve both innate disease resistance and the efficacy of existing and future vaccines.

The researchers will also use genomic technologies to find evidence of genetic variation in the function of macrophages that could provide the basis for breeding birds with improved resistance to common pathogens.

Host factors in determining resistance to cryptosporidiosis in cattle – Professor Elisabeth Innes, Dr Frank Katzer and Dr Emily Jane Hotchkiss from Moredun Research Institute – £576,493. In collaboration with Dr Liam Morrison, Dr Neil Mabbott and Dr Jayne Hope  at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh – £506,989, and Dr Mintu Nath, The James Hutton Institute – £20,630.

Cryptosporidium parasites are a major cause of intestinal disease in farmed livestock worldwide, and are also a leading cause of infant diarrhoea in humans. There are no safe and effective treatments or vaccines currently available.

This project will provide the fullest exploration yet of how cattle resist infection of Cryptosporidium parasites. Detailed accounts of the host responses will provide important knowledge to support the development of vaccines to aid disease prevention and the identification of relevant biomarkers will enable selective breeding programmes to improve resilience.

In addition, the researchers will develop a new in vitro bovine system, which will revolutionise the study of host-pathogen interactions with Cryptosporidium, minimising the need for use of animal models.

Dissecting variation in host responsiveness to a recombinant vaccine designed to control teladorsagiosis in sheep – Professor Jacqueline Matthews, Dr Alasdair Nisbet, Dr Tom McNeilly and Dr Stewart Burgess from the Moredun Research Institute – £386,938. In collaboration with Dr Simon Babayan from the University of Glasgow – £300,629.

Worm infections are the most costly endemic disease affecting sheep in the UK.

Dewormers (known as anthelmintics) have been used for over 40 years to control worm infections in sheep, but resistance to several of these drug classes is common and increasing.

Recently, this research group have discovered an effective vaccine prototype for control of Teladorsagia circumcincta – the dominant worm present in the UK sheep industry.

By understanding the variation in sheep responsiveness to the new prototype and by examining if this is affected by age of the lamb, this study will deliver the next steps to developing a commercially relevant vaccine.

Development of novel oral vaccination strategies for Atlantic salmon – Professor Chris Secombes and Dr Jun Zou, from the University of Aberdeen; Professor Sandra Adams, Professor James Bron and Professor Randolph Richards from the  University of Stirling; Professor Gordon Allan,  Dr Mark Mooney from Queen’s University of Belfast – £1,049,594

Scotland is the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon within the EU, and the third largest worldwide.

Infectious diseases are a significant factor affecting the economic stability of aquaculture. Injections of vaccines to individual fish are often used but this limits the vaccination window to the inland phase of salmon farming.

The project will define the gut regions in salmon responsible for recognising orally-delivered vaccines.  As such a detailed immune profile will be created and this information will be used in the study to evaluate nanoparticle vaccine delivery technology, in collaboration with AFBI (Dr John McKillen) and SiSaf Ltd (a biotechnology drug delivery company), to develop improved oral vaccines for salmon.

Understanding inflammatory processes in ovine footrot to inform rational vaccine design – Dr Sabine Totemeyer, Dr Tracey Coffey, Dr Jasmeet Kaler, Dr Richard Emes and Mr Peers Davies from the University of Nottingham – £620,891 in collaboration with Prof Gary Entrican and Sean Wattegedera for Moredun Research Institute – £72,408

In England more than 95% of sheep flocks have footrot, with an estimated cost to the UK sheep industry of £24-84M per annum. Footrot is caused by bacteria that invade the skin of the foot, and cause pain and separation of the horn from the hoof.

Antibiotic injection early in disease leads to recovery within a few days. In the long term however, it would be preferable to instead use vaccination (currently vaccination is part of a 5 point management plan, rather than a single preventative measure), helping to reduce our reliance on and use of antibiotics.

By studying the local immune defences in the sheep foot and how the bacteria causing footrot are recognised by the immune system, in addition to a complementary molecular analysis of the primary pathogen associated with disease, researchers hope to explain better how the clinical signs of footrot are caused and how the immune system contributes to this. The study will help to inform new approaches to disease management and ultimately disease prevention.

Towards control of Infectious bronchitis virus; understanding cross-protection and the genetic plasticity of IBV – Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Peter Kaiser from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh – £499,647 in collaboration with Professor Paul Britton, The Pirbright Institute – £405,179

Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is an endemic virus that causes severe disease outbreaks in chickens worldwide.

Effective and economically viable vaccines against IBV are available, but multiple combinations of vaccines are needed because of the level of cross-protection needed against the different IBV strains.

Using  novel “epitope fingerprinting” technology to determine the key regions (epitopes) that are recognised by the antibodies induced after infection, researchers will determine why certain vaccines do not induce cross protection and how current vaccines may be used more efficiently.  In addition the researchers will determine how pressure from the bird’s immune responses on the virus might drive the virus to change or mutate.

Results for the research will provide knowledge for the development of more efficient cross-protective vaccines.


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