Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute make major breakthrough in the war against worms

Edinburgh Infectious Diseases researchers based at the Moredun Research Institute have made a major breakthrough in the war against worms

Scientists at the Moredun Research Institute in Midlothian, have made a major breakthrough in the battle to prevent and control parasitic worm infections by successfully protecting sheep using vaccination. The team at Moredun have recently had their results published in the leading scientific journal Vaccine and the paper reports the most successful attempt yet to protect animals against worms, using a laboratory produced vaccine, giving hope for a sustainable control strategy that does not rely on drugs.

  • A.J. Nisbet, et al (2013) Successful immunization against a parasitic nematode by vaccination with recombinant proteins. Vaccine (In Press).  For a link to the paper click here.

L:  Lead researcher Al Nisbet; centre: electron micrograph of Teladorsagia circumcincta; R:  sheep target of vaccination

Devastating effect of parasitic worms

arasitic worms (nematodes) have profound effects on human and animal health and welfare worldwide: over 1 billion humans, primarily in the developing world, are affected by soil-transmitted nematodes. When measured in terms of disability-adjusted life years, their global impact is comparable to that of malaria or tuberculosis. Infection of livestock with closely related parasitic nematodes can have devastating effects on health and production, affecting food security in developed and developing regions. Despite decades of intensive research, the development of vaccines against these pathogens has been unsuccessful.

Dr Alasdair Nisbet, who is leading the research team at Moredun said,

Currently, these pathogens are controlled using drugs, however multi-drug resistant isolates are being reported with such frequency that development of a vaccine against this species is now a research priority.

Highly effective novel vaccine developed against worms

The approach taken by the team at Moredun involved identifying a number of key proteins which the worm produces, some of which enable it to escape the immune response and to survive and multiply within the animal.  By immunizing sheep with these key proteins the research team showed that the vaccinated animals had significantly reduced numbers of adult worms and eggs shed into the environment.

Highlighs from the published work

  • A recombinant sub-unit vaccine protected sheep against Teladorsagia circumcincta
  • Vaccine consists of a cocktail of immunomodulatory and immunodominant antigens
  • Vaccination reduced fecal egg counts by 58–70% and adult worm burdens by 56–75%
  • Best reported protection using nematode recombinant vaccine in the definitive host


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