New local research sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health will look into whether fungi and bacteria found in sheep faeces hold the key to developing the next generation of antiparasitic treatments to protect livestock.
Professor Robert Capon and Dr Zeinab Khalil from University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience have been awarded a $700,000 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Australia, a world leader in the research and development of antiparasitics, who will provide funding and in-kind support totalling $1.5 million.
Production losses and livestock treatment costs attributed to nematode infections remain a significant cost to the industry. In addition, with some nematodes developing resistance to one or more anti-parasitic compounds, sheep and cattle producers commonly use a combination of active ingredients to help prevent and overcome multi-drug resistance.
University of Queensland researchers will study the bacteria and fungi present in infected sheep faeces and pastures from commercial sheep stations across Australia in a bid to discover new natural antiparasitics that could also prevent multi-drug resistance.
Fungi and bacteria can have silent or switched off gene clusters with antiparasitic properties.
“The researchers aim to activate these ‘silent’ genes by changing the conditions in which the microbes grow so that they may reveal the natural chemical defenses they normally keep hidden deep in their DNA,” said Dr Kim Agnew, head of Research and Development for ANZ, Boehringer Ingelheim.
“We will thoroughly investigate the antiparasitics that we find and fast-track the ones with the most potential.”
Boehringer will play a key role in helping screen new compounds identified during the research for their antiparasitic activity. Screening of ‘hits’ from the UQ team at the purpose-built Boehringer Ingelheim robotic screening facility in the US will identify new compounds that have the potential to overcome multi-drug resistance.
The aim is to discover new classes of natural antiparasitics with different modes of action which will safeguard livestock and sidestep multi-drug resistance.
“New antiparasitics will have a radical effect on farming—allowing less frequent application of chemicals, less chemical stress on the environment, and an ability to rehabilitate infected pastures previously deemed uneconomic,” Dr Khalil said.