Moredun Research Institute provided updates on some of its disease research work, funding options, and plans around its 2020 centenary in a recently held press briefing in Penicuik.
The BVD eradication programme in Scotland entered its fifth phase on December 1, 2019, and the focus of new regulations will be on protecting the gains that have been made up to now.
Dr George Russell, from Moredun Research Institute, explained that the new measures were focused on identifying the remaining persistently infected (PI) animals and encouraging owners to remove them.
Dr Russell said: “Moredun’s role in the eradication and research [into BVD] has been typing BVD virus-positive serum samples from Scottish approved laboratories.
“Since 2012 we have tested more than 5,000 samples, more than 60 per cent from Scottish premises. The ability to analyse BVDV strains at this level of detail allows rapid tracing of new outbreaks and identification of sources of infection.”
A full guide to phase five of the scheme can be downloaded from the Scottish Government website, with the main aims and changes including:
Efficacy of an ELISA blood test, developed by Moredun and made commercially available through Biobest last year, to identify sheep scab depended on it being carried out correctly and incorporated into wider biosecurity protocols around the disease.
Dr Stewart Burgess explained that Moredun was working to communicate messages around the correct use of the test to farmers, vets and suitably qualified persons, which included the importance of randomly testing at least 12 animals from a group or mob when using the test to determine flock-level disease status.
Dr Burgess said: “Reports from Biobest indicate that many users still test individual or low numbers of sheep, reducing the ability of the test to detect disease and resulting in mistaken all-clears.”
Dr Burgess added that development of a vaccine for sheep scab was still ongoing.
He said Moredun had now successfully developed one, which was currently going through a validation process via several trials, but results so far had indicated that it was working well.
It had the potential to limit the spread of sheep scab if it were used in conjunction with existing methods used to control the disease.
It was likely that a commercial partner for the vaccine would be sought next year.
Moredun Research Institute (MRI) had been successful in leveraging additional monies from a variety of sources to allow it to continue to deliver on its research work into infectious diseases in livestock, as well as adding aquaculture work to its portfolio.
So said Prof Julie Fitzpatrick (pictured), scientific director at MRI, who continued in explaining how the organisation was utilising opportunities since the EU exit announcement and subsequent cease in associated funding.
She said MRIs funding from Scottish Government was set to continue and would sit alongside that from other avenues, one example being a £53m Innovate UK bid Moredun had led on for an Aquaculture and Livestock Cluster for Enterprise initiative.
The organisation, which started as the Animal Diseases Research Association in 1920, was also looking to raise some funds itself.
It had set a fundraising target of £1 million, which would have a key input into its centenary plans for next year as well as to provide finance to support at least three new fellowship posts for early career scientists.
Centenary activities included conference events and the development of a new mobile laboratory, while funding for younger scientists joining Moredun would be for between two to three years.
The ‘Moredun Bus’ was set to hit the road next year and will tour farms and organisations across the UK to spread the latest messages on livestock disease and raise funds for new scientific appointments.
Prof Fitzpatrick said: “The vehicle has been designed to incorporate modern molecular diagnostic equipment including technologies that will make on-farm or pen-side identification of pathogens and disease likely in the near future.
“We are open to receiving donations, but we are also making direct requests to commercial and other stakeholders and will be holding events where people will have an opportunity to contribute.”