What Is the BUG Consortium?
Parasitic worms infect all species of farm animal (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) and need to be treated for the health and welfare of the animal. Many of these parasites are nematodes (or roundworms) and these are controlled using drugs called anthelmintics. Unfortunately many worm species are now resistant to these drugs, analogous to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, making control much more difficult. How anthelmintic resistance arises and spreads within the worms on a farm remains unclear.
What is the BUG Consortium? BUG stands for Building Upon the Genome. The BUG Consortium aims to use the recently published genome of the sheep parasite Haemonchus contortus (Laing et al, 2013) to identify the genetic changes that allow worms to survive drug treatment.
The major of aims of the BUG Consortium are:
(i) to develop genetic markers to diagnose anthelmintic resistance at an earlier stage than current tests allow
(ii) to use the genome as a tool for vaccine discovery
The BUG Consortium brings together a unique group of scientists working at Universities and Institutes throughout the UK. It includes individuals with strong backgrounds in anthelmintic resistance, nematode genomics, population genetics, genome sequencing, mathematical modelling, climate change and agricultural economics. The BUG Consortium is led by Professor Eileen Devaney at the University of Glasgow, who has many years of experience of working with parasitic nematodes.
Additional staff from the Institute of Biodiversity and Comparative Animal Health, University of Glasgow are:
Dr Collette Britton, whose work adopts a comparative genomics using both C. elegans and parasitic nematodes, including H. contortus.
Dr Roz Laing, a post-doctoral scientist and veterinary graduate, who has a long-standing research interest in parasite genomics and anthelmintic resistance.
Dr Barbara Mable, an evolutionary geneticist, with a particular interest in how genomic and genetic changes affect interactions between organisms.
Dr Louise Matthews, a mathematical epidemiologist who works on a range of host-pathogen systems including E. coli, foot and mouth disease and nematodes.
Consortium members at other Institutions include Professor Neil Sargison, University of Edinburgh, a veterinary surgeon whose work has had a long-standing focus on planned worm control in sheep and cattle. He was responsible for the first report of macrocyclic lactone resistance in Teladorsagia circumcincta in the northern hemisphere in a commercial sheep flock.
At the Moredun Research Institute, Dr David Bartley brings expertise in assessing drug resistance in field populations of various parasitic nematodes.
Professor Alistair Stott at Scotland’s Rural College is an agricultural economist with an interest in the relationship between decision-making by the farmer and disease prevention and control.
Dr Eric Morgan, at the University of Bristol brings expertise in the effects of climate and climate change on parasite infection in ruminants, largely through the development, validation and application of predictive computer models.
Collaborators include Professor John Gilleard at the University of Calgary, Canada, who is an expert in parasite genomics and anthelmintic resistance and Dr Richard Reeve at the University of Glasgow.
The BUG Consortium is funded by a Strategic Longer and Larger Grant (sLoLa) from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).