£4m fund to research animal diseases

A multi-million-pound investment could help see-off bovine TB (bTB), as well as several other diseases detrimental to farm animals.

The sum of £4m has been donated for world-leading UK research by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Animal Health Research Club (ARC), to help reduce or erase industry-destroying diseases.

The disease at the top of the agenda in the beef sector is bTB and £829,790 has been donated to the study of genomic selection for bTB resistance in dairy cows. Research will be carried out by several scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College.

Scientists on the study acknowledged bTB’s major economic, trade, health and welfare impacts on the cattle industry, other animals and humans. They will use datasets from UK cattle herds in the UK and Republic of Ireland to create a way of indicating what genes make cattle susceptible to bTB, “which could be used to breed cattle for bTB resistance”, said scientists.

Six other projects will also be funded to reduce or understand diseases such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus; infectious bronchitis virus; avian viruses; the chicken disease coccidiosis; mastitis; and major histocompatibility complex.

Projects funded by the award will take place over the next three years at various universities, colleges and institutes across the UK. There will be a second call for funding through the ARC in October, where a further £5.5m will be available.

BBSRC director Dr Celia Caulcott said: “Livestock diseases cost UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year, pose welfare problems for farmed animals and negatively affect food security.

“By funding studies that take a broad look at some of the most prevalent and costly livestock diseases, the ARC will be able to deliver results to benefit farmers, animals and consumers.”


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