Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ewe parasite research to save £80m a year

24.03.2004


New research at the University of Leeds has overturned existing advice to farmers that has been maintaining the disease toxoplasma in the nation’s sheep flocks for years.



Toxoplasma is a disease humans catch from sheep and cats that causes human abortions and birth defects with greater frequency than rubella.

In a study of a pedigree Charolais flock and commercial flock, Dr Judith Smith (left) and her colleague Dr Geoff Hide from the University of Salford found that some sheep families had abortion rates as high as 36%, while other families showed no abortions at all.


The researchers found that toxoplasma can be inherited in sheep – passed from ewes to their lambs in the womb. If she is right, the parasite could be bred out of the national flock by allowing only toxoplasma-free ewes to reproduce, saving British agriculture around £80m every year in sheep deaths and abortions. Most humans catch the bug from infected lamb, so a healthy flock also means a healthy public.

Dr Smith said: “It’s always been thought that sheep pick up the disease-causing parasite by eating grass contaminated with the faeces of infected cats. Our study of infected flocks shows that the parasite is passed ‘vertically’ down the generations.”

The alternative explanation is that sheep inherit susceptibility to the disease, rather than inherit the parasite itself, but Smith believes that’s unlikely: “We’ve found that almost all infections are from one strain of the parasite; genetic evidence that transmission from ewe to lamb may be much more important than sheep becoming infected as adults.”

The research overturns the conventional wisdom on toxoplasma control. Smith explains: “For years farmers were told to breed from ewes who had previously aborted a lamb because of toxoplasma, since it was thought that previous aborters would have developed immunity. Far from controlling the disease, farmers were actually spreading it, by breeding from infected ewes who pass the parasite on to their young. It does seem crazy now, but some earlier studies had showed that immunity can reduce rates of abortion – what vets hadn’t realised is that while abortions decreased, transmission to live lambs continued.”

In a wild population, the parasite might be naturally bred out by natural selection, but until now, the disease has continued to thrive in the UK’s managed flocks.

The major strain of toxoplasma in Europe is thought to come from a cross between two parental strains that occurred 10,000 years ago – around the time people first started farming. It is likely that the parasite then spread as domestic animals expanded across Europe, and that toxoplasma has dogged us since agriculture began.

Vanessa Bridge | University of Leeds
Further information:
http://reporter.leeds.ac.uk/497/s5.htm

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New study shows producers where and how to grow cellulosic biofuel crops
17.01.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

nachricht Robotic weeders: to a farm near you?
10.01.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>