Preventing parasites with new vaccines
Preventing parasites in poultry, cattle and other livestock is a major concern for Europe's farmers. As current treatments prove less effective or desirable, EU-funded scientists are working on new vaccines to keep animals healthy and safeguard our food supply.
© Moonborne #180061581, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Poultry and livestock farming faces a constant threat of parasite infestation, which is typically targeted by widespread use of drugs that have led to resistance and reduced effectiveness. Coupled with changing regulations on chemical use, as well as a growing consumer preference for organic food, the pressure is on to find alternatives to keep livestock parasite-free and maximise food production.
Vaccines are the primary focus of the EU-funded PARAGONE project. Developing effective ones has proven difficult in the past due to the parasites ability to modulate or adapt to host immune responses, resulting in a range of problems. For example, external parasites like red mites in poultry cause severe irritation, stress and poor egg production. Such mites can also carry viruses and bacteria, which cause illness in hens.
Mite infestations in cattle, leading to potentially severe skin disease, can also result in production losses and animal stress. Current treatment options are not straightforward and failure to kill the mites can lead to prolonged diseases.
Know your foe
PARAGONE scientists are seeking to better understand the effects of parasites like worms infesting the stomachs, intestines and livers of cattle and other ruminant livestock, with a view to developing and eventually commercialising effective vaccines and methods for delivering them.
The project is studying how worms and mites spread and what they do once in or on an animal. Stopping these pathogens has proven problematic in the past because they release molecules that suppress immune responses, which any new vaccine would need to overcome in order to work effectively.
For this, detailed research programmes and immunology studies are taking place in Europe and South America to ensure that new vaccines could knock out parasites with different characteristics in different regions.