Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vaccine Proving Effective

One of the most damaging and prevalent roundworm parasites in the world is now being seriously challenged by a new vaccine developed by the Moredun Research Institute in Scotland.

The barber pole worm or Haemonchus contortus is a voracious blood sucker which causes anaemia in sheep and goats and can quickly cause fatalities.

Barber pole worms (image by Ray Kaplan)
The long road to producing a commercially available vaccine started at the Moredun several years ago with the identification of the proteins in the intestines of the barber pole worm. Extracting and purifying these proteins and then incorporating them in tiny quantities in a vaccine has turned out to trigger a reliable immune response in sheep. Essentially the antibodies produced circulate in the bloodstream and then block the digestive system of the invading worm. It will eventually die and should produce far fewer eggs before its demise.

“We have noted a 90% reduction in egg laying on pastures,” said David Smith, project leader at the Moredun. Initially, Mr Smith considered using molecular biology to reproduce the proteins but soon discovered that it would be far cheaper and easier to harvest barber pole worms from the intestines of infested sheep and then extract the proteins.

Remarkably, no pharmaceutical companies are involved allowing profits to be recirculated back to the Moredun for further research into animal diseases.

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