Two Queensland researchers have been included in a global consortium run by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has views to fund a cattle tick vaccine in Africa.
QAAFI’s Associate Professor Alicja Lew-Tabor and Dr Manuel Rodriguez Valle have been working on a tick antigen and attended the consortium’s first meeting in Morocco recently.
“The Gates Foundation is looking at cattle ticks in Africa because they cause a lot of losses for small-holder farms and it is all about food,” Dr Lew-Tabor explained.
The foundation is testing different laboratories from around and QAFFI’s has been included.
Dr Lew-Tabor and Dr Rodriguez Valle began testing vaccines through Beef CRC and are currently running a short-term trial at Gatton.
“A vaccine has to be affordable, otherwise no one will buy it, and commercial companies say it has to be applicable worldwide, not just Australia,” Dr Lew-Tabor said.
The meeting was a step in that direction and saw lots of discussion on standardising trials.
“Everybody in each country runs their tick trials in different ways so some way of consolidating that would be good,” Dr Lew-Tabor said.
“We have good facilities here at Gatton, but other places just count the number of ticks, while we collect them and incubate them to see if they lay eggs.”
What is wanted is a vaccine that means fewer ticks and fewer eggs, she said.
“There is still a lot that needs to be done, like studying the antigen in our ticks and comparing them to those in other countries.”
MLA was funding the current antigen trial that was for three months, however, longer-term would be preferable to determine how many applications of the vaccine would be needed.
“We would need to do a two-year cattle trial but it is expensive, as you have to maintain the cattle for that long.”
Cattle have to stay in a feedlot rather than pasture in order for the trial to be controlled.
The current trial is a continuation of previous trials, whittling down previous mixtures and pulling them apart to discover which are the most protective elements, Dr Lew-Tabor said.
Chemical resistance is an increasing problem and in Brazil cattle ticks are resistant to every single class of arachnicide.
“Australia still has pockets where it can be used, and a lot of people are using tropical composites that offer some tick resistance.”