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New grant to investigate drug resistance in serious African cattle disease

A £1.75M grant will support research to uncover mechanisms of drug resistance in African livestock trypanosomes, transmitted by tsetse flies.

African cattle
Resistance to the two main drugs used to combat African Animal Trypanosomiasis is increasing.

Trypanosomes are single-cell organisms transmitted by tsetse flies that cause a serious disease in cattle – called African Animal Trypanosomiasis (AAT). Resistance to the two main drugs used to combat AAT is increasing.

The disease has a huge economic impact in sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately 60 million cattle are at risk and AAT kills 3 million each year, causing significantly reduced agricultural production.

Dr. Liam Morrison of The Roslin Institute is leading a £1.75M project, funded by the UK Government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which aims to investigate drug resistance in trypanosome species that cause AAT.

The project is a collaboration with colleagues at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Glasgow, the Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Institute and the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania.

Investigating the causes of AAT drug resistance

The project is seeking to identify resistance mechanisms to the prophylactic drug isometamidium chloride, which is widely used to treat AAT. In the laboratory, the researchers will use biochemical, molecular and genomic analysis to compare parasites that are resistant to the drug to parasites that are susceptible to it. Importantly, these data will be complemented by field data on characterising drug resistance in Tanzania.

The combined lab and field data will then be used to design the first mathematical model to accurately assess how drug resistance emerges and spreads in AAT in the field.

The model will be applied to a new trypanocidal drug in development by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), in order to predict how resistance might emerge and spread for the new drug candidate. This aims to identify strategies that would mitigate resistance and extend the lifetime of both current and new drugs.

The data we collect and generate will enable us to design strategies to mitigate the increasing problem of drug resistance, and therefore maximise the useful lifetime of existing and future drugs.

Dr. Liam MorrisonThe Roslin Institute

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