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Project aims to curb losses from major cattle pest

Roslin experts join collaboration to mitigate impact of Asian blue tick on herds around the world.

Scientists are working with commercial partners to tackle the world’s most devastating cattle tick, which causes billions of dollars of losses to farmers worldwide.

Researchers at the Roslin Institute are working with partners Oxitec to develop a method of managing the invasive Asian blue tick, Rhipicephalus microplus, which spreads diseases through biting cattle.

This new partnership will initiate work to develop a self-limiting Asian blue tick, under Oxitec’s proprietary Friendly™ platform, carrying a gene that prevents their offspring from growing to adulthood. This approach is designed to limit the population of the ticks in areas where the solution is deployed.

Their initiative follows a feasibility study by Oxitec that validated the key methods for development of a modified tick, and found that the Friendly™ tick approach is expected to provide a highly effective alternative to chemical pesticides.

The development project is funded by US$4.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It will make use of the Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility at the Roslin Institute campus.

Livestock impact

Researchers hope their efforts can mitigate the impact of the Asian blue tick, which besides cattle can affect other livestock such as buffalo, goats and horses.

It can spread many diseases such as bovine babesiosis, and has the largest economic impact of any tick-borne cattle infection, with an estimated cost of US$3.2 billion each year in Brazil alone.

The tick was originally native to Asia and is now widely distributed across Africa and South and Central America, causing economic loss to many farmers in low- and middle-income countries.

Conventional management uses chemical pesticides, to which the tick is widely resistant and so are rapidly becoming ineffective.

Alternatives to current methods of managing the impact of the Asian blue tick are urgently needed. This research initiative holds promise for developing a solution to support cattle farmers and their livestock against this devastating pest.

Dr Tim ConnelleyRoslin Institute

We’re looking forward to starting work on development of the world’s most sustainable tick management solution. We’re grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will enable us to – in collaboration with the globally respected Roslin Institute – start to build an urgently needed Friendly™ tick solution to support livestock farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

Kelly MatzenChief Technology Officer. Oxitec

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

Related links

Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons