11 March 2020

Research gets a huge boost towards a new generation louping ill vaccine

An exciting partnership has been launched between Moredun and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to tackle the problem of louping ill, an often fatal tick-borne virus, to which sheep and red grouse are particularly susceptible. Moredun developed an effective vaccine in the 1930’s which was a game changer for many hill sheep farmers and grouse moor managers. However, this vaccine was recently withdrawn from manufacture.

In recent years, ticks have been ever increasing and moving into areas where they have not historically been a problem. Subsequently, tick borne diseases have spread with the ticks and in the absence of a louping ill vaccine, serious losses have been reported in both sheep and red grouse. Dr Beth Wells, Moredun, confirmed:

We have had many reports from our hill farming members that they have been losing sheep, mainly ewe hoggs to louping ill, some losing up to 25% of their replacement females which is a serious loss. We already have successful partnerships with GWCT and are delighted they have joined us in a new project to work towards a novel vaccine for louping ill control.” 

Research carried out at Moredun, under the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme, has identified potential candidates for a new generation louping ill vaccine. This now requires further research to ensure these candidates cause an immune response in sheep and that this response will protect the animals against louping ill.

GWCT have galvanised the generosity of Scottish estate owners, to allow this research to be carried out at Moredun this year. Dr Adam Smith of GWCT said:

This important work will be vital in the fight against LIV, and GWCT is pleased to have been able to help in raising the funds for the Moredun’s work as a separate initiative to our core fundraising activity.”

Ian Duncan Miller, Moredun’s Chair added:

This research illustrates the benefits of working in partnership and we are very pleased to be working alongside GWCT with this project, which is of extreme importance to both of our industries. This project takes Moredun back to its roots in tackling a really serious disease in the hills and uplands.

The project is due to start this year and will be led by Principal Investigator, Dr David Griffiths and Head of Vaccines, Dr Alasdair Nisbet. If successful, the potential vaccine will be pushed towards commercialisation as soon as possible.

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Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which carries out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

For information, contact:

Playfair Walker
Telephone: 0131 445 5570
Email: richard@playfairwalker.com

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