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Our research projects in cattle, sheep, aquatic animals, pigs and more.

International

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Associate Professor Russell Bush
Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Students
Sonevilay Nampanya
James Young

International Collaborators
Dr Syseng Khounsy, Department of Livestock and Fisheries, Lao PDR
Dr Vanthong Phengvichith, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, Lao PDR
Assoc Professor Oudoum Phonekhampheng, Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos (NUOL)

Summary
Lao PDR remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a high rate of rural poverty and threat of food insecurity. Agriculture supports 80% of employment for the population of 6.7 million people, yet the industry remains underdeveloped. Recent research has confirmed that improving livestock health and productivity can be a successful pathway to improving rural household incomes and livelihoods within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Large ruminants; cattle and buffalo, small ruminants; especially goats, pigs and poultry are increasingly important to rural households, particularly due to their multiple uses including as a source of food and income, for cultural ceremonies and as a means of storing wealth however the use of large ruminants in draught power for transport and tillage is declining.

Research conducted during project AH/2006/159 estimated farm-gate value of large ruminants at US$ 915m and identified that village-level constraints in large ruminant productivity could be addressed if a systems approach to deliver health, biosecurity and production interventions was successfully adopted, and farmer knowledge, attitude and practice were improved. However the constant threat of transboundary animal diseases including foot-and-mouth (FMD) constrains the opportunities for expansion of the livestock industry created by increasing demand from burgeoning international markets, including neighbouring Vietnam and China.

This project addresses this major constraint of transboundary animal disease risk to sustainable expansion of livestock trading in Laos and beyond. It is proposed that development and delivery of health, biosecurity and productivity interventions for commercially important livestock species at the village-level will improve smallholder livelihoods, driving and understanding of risk management, leading to improved disease reporting and response systems, potentially creating a zone for declaration of FMD-freedom from northern Laos.

The objectives of the project are:
1. Develop and test a “whole of village biosecurity program” for pigs, poultry, goats, cattle and buffalo.
2. Strengthen current disease event reporting and emergency disease response systems, primarily focused on potential zoning of a FMD-free zone in northern Laos.
3. Develop a communication strategy for a widespread public awareness biosecurity campaign, potentially applicable to the GMS.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
February 2015 – June 2019

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Associate Professor Russell Bush
Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Students
Sonevilay Nampanya
James Young

International Collaborators
Dr Syseng Khounsy, Department of Livestock and Fisheries, Lao PDR
Dr Aloun Phonvisay, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, Lao PDR
Assoc Professor Oudoum Phonekhampheng, Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Lao (NUOL)
Dr Bounheuang Ninchaleune, Faculty of Agriculture & Environment, Savannakhet University, Lao PDR

Summary
Smallholder cattle and buffalo farmers in Lao PDR are increasingly gaining access to improving domestic and international beef markets in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Although there is growing recognition that this is an opportunity to improve rural livelihoods and assist in alleviation of poverty, the supply of beef animals is increasingly under stress due to disease constraints, poor productivity and reproductive performance and undeveloped markets. The aim of this project is to support the development of a beef industry in Laos in response to new market opportunities in the GMS.

The aim of this project is to support the development of a beef industry in Laos in response to new market opportunities in GMS. The project objectives include improving the competitiveness of the beef value chain, encouraging the development of a biosecure market-driven production approach and supporting improved large ruminant production. This research is needed to promote the supply of beef animals into the developing market chain for Laotian smallholders, specifically the expanding consumer markets throughout Laos and importantly, northern Vietnam and southern China. In addition the project will enhance efforts to address local, national and regional biosecurity that minimise disease risks to this trade.

Key research questions that remain unanswered include:
- Can tangible improvements in livestock health and production, linked to biosecurity and management interventions, achieve positive economic and social livelihood impacts in Lao rural communities?
- Can smallholder producers effectively link with traders to achieve improved value added outcomes, through the supply of high quality beef animals “ready for market” rather than the current practice of selling when cash is needed?
- What reproduction and breeding management interventions can be successfully implemented to improve the supply of local beef?

This project will build on the outcomes of AH/2006/159 with key project outcomes that will include:
- An effective pathway for improved health, production, biosecurity and marketing based on group management of beef animals with a price information mechanism and a pilot “quality assurance” system established, enhancing the market chain.
- An understanding of how smallholder farmers can apply appropriate health and productivity interventions to achieve intensification and gain greater access to existing and new beef markets.
- Institutional understanding of the most appropriate reproduction and breeding management interventions to increase the supply of beef animals and meat products from smallholder intensive production systems.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
February 2015 – June 2019

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Associate Professor Russell Bush
Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Students
James Young
Katherine Ashley

International Collaborators
Dr Suon Sothoeun, Department of Animal Health and Production, Phnom Penh
Mr Bun Chan, National Veterinary Research Institute, Cambodia
Mr Kim Savoeun, Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Kampong Cham

Summary
Recent research has confirmed the significant potential of livestock to provide a sustainable income for rural smallholder households in reducing poverty and food insecurity in Cambodia. This importance of livestock to the Cambodian economy has also been recognised by the Cambodian government, reflecting the struggle of many rice farmers to achieve profitability and the opportunity developing for them to access the growing regional demand for animal protein. However the decreasing national large ruminant population has contributed to significant increases in cattle prices and if national economic gain through beef productivity is to be achieved, supply and disease risk constraints need to be addressed. Currently the majority of livestock smallholder farmers have limited knowledge of livestock husbandry and health and almost no knowledge of biosecurity at a farmer or village level. Priority interventions required to achieve efficient and sustainable livestock production include animal health, biosecurity, nutrition, reproduction and marketing – implemented at village level.

The aim of the project is to develop and test a village-level biosecurity system in Cambodia to address these priority constraints to improved livestock productivity. The research builds on previous projects of AH/2005/086 and AH/006/159 where questions from this work included:
- Can a village-based biosecurity program that protects all the important land livestock species including cattle, buffalo, pigs and poultry, be successfully developed for potential scale-out to new areas and assist in management of transboundary diseases?
- Will strengthening livestock nutrition and reproduction improve rural livelihoods when successfully linked to developing biosecure markets?
- Can the disease reporting and response system be improved to enable timely disease control interventions that limit disease impacts, and be progressed towards an emergency disease response capability in Cambodia?

The role of gender in adoption of biosecurity measures will also be assessed as rural women were found to be essential in advocating biosecurity measures in FMD eradication in the Philippines.

This project will address these questions through a “whole-of-village” participatory approach, where the most appropriate knowledge-based interventions that lead farmer groups can adopt to optimise their livelihoods. The current village livestock disease surveillance, diagnosis, control, reporting and response capacities will be audited and improvement strategies developed and sequentially trialled. The project will demonstrate that this systems approach to enhance production of quality livestock, results in development of small rural business enterprises, increasing food quality and safety and improving rural livelihoods and human health.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
May 2015 – December 2017

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Mike Rimmer
Dr Joy Becker
Dr Navneet Dhand
Dr Paul Hick
Mrs Alison Tweedie

International Collaborators
Mr Tri Heru Prihadi, Director -
Institute for Mariculture Research & Development Gondol
Dr Murwantoko, Senior Lecturer -
Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Agriculture,
Gadjah Mada University
Mr Wajan S. Sudja, Secretary General , ABILINDO -
Indonesian Mariculture Association

Summary

This project will determine the cause and extent of disease-related production losses in marine finfish aquaculture in Indonesia through structured epidemiological and diagnostic studies. This information will be used to prioritise and test improved fish health management approaches for both the hatchery and grow-out sub-sectors. These results will be integrated with ‘best practices’ such as improved larval nutrition and adoption of pellet diets instead of ‘rubbish’ fish feed. Research and implementation will be undertaken in collaboration with the relevant industry association, ABILINDO, to support adoption by marine finfish farmers in Indonesia.

Related components of research will evaluate the use of ‘best practice’ in marine finfish hatcheries, and extend these results to Indonesian hatcheries. Currently, many farms have identified fingerling quality as a major problem emanating from hatcheries in Bali, and there is a danger that Indonesia will lose its competitive advantage as a major regional seedstock supplier unless fingerling quality is improved.

Specifically, the project will:
- Identify and develop fish health management strategies to reduce the impacts of key fish diseases, by determining the key diseases responsible for production losses, and planning and trialling appropriate interventions;
- Develop and test improved management protocols for hatcheries and grow-out farms, including improved biosecurity and improved larval nutrition, and greater adoption of compounded feeds; and,
- Build capacity in fish health management in Indonesia, through training in epidemiology and disease diagnosis for Indonesian fish health professionals, and improve fish health education services at university level.

The project will utilise expertise within the Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research and Development (AMAFRAD) and Gadjah Mada University, and provide training and development opportunities for fish health professionals in these agencies to enhance Indonesia’s capacity to investigate and control fish disease. The project will hold training and development workshops in Indonesia and in Australia to improve skills and knowledge in epidemiology, histopathology and PCR analysis, leading to improved disease control and increased productivity of Indonesian farms.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
July 2013 – June 2016

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Mike Rimmer

Collaborators

National
Associate Professor Jesmond Sammut,
University of New South Wales
Dr Joanne Millar,
Charles Sturt University

International
Professor Ketut Sugama,
Directorate General of Aquaculture,
Ministry of Marine Affairs & Fisheries (MMAF)
Mr Sugeng Raharjo,
Brackishwater Aquaculture Development Centre, Takalar
Mr Coco Kokarkin,
Brackishwater Aquaculture Development Centre, Ujung Batee
Dr Rachmansyah, Research Institute for Coastal Aquaculture, Maros
Dr Projo Danoedoro, Faculty of Geography, Gadjah Mada University

Summary

While brackishwater pond (tambak) aquaculture in Indonesia is an important livelihood activity in coastal areas, many small-scale farmers are struggling to continue farming shrimp. Viral diseases are causing crop losses, input costs (particularly for feed) are rising, and commodity prices for shrimp are declining due to strong competition in a global marketplace. As a result, many farms are out of production or are producing limited quantities of shrimp; recent ACIAR-funded research has revealed that while small-scale shrimp farms predominate in South Sulawesi, they only contribute about 5% of total shrimp production. While some farms have successfully adopted Better Management Practices (BMPs) for shrimp farming to overcome production constraints, successful implementation depends on specific site-related, socio-economic and logistical criteria being met. A large proportion of farms will not be able to meet the criteria required for shrimp BMP implementation: consequently, these farms must be provided with alternative production strategies if they are to remain (or become) viable.

This project will test and evaluate the economic viability of alternative commodities for brackishwater pond culture such as tilapia, milkfish, grouper, crabs and sea cucumbers. Evaluation trials will be undertaken in South Sulawesi and Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Aceh) provinces to build on the outcomes of previous and ongoing ACIAR projects.

The project will also incorporate support for mariculture development of offshore islands of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province. Additionally, grow trials with grouper will be undertaken in collaboration with the fish seed production centre on Pulau Simuelue to promote the use of more sustainable culture practices.

The main expected impact of this project will be to increase the income of tambak farmers in South Sulawesi and Nanggroe Aceh Durassalam provinces who, for a range of reasons, are unable to farm shrimp. Socio-economic survey data from South Sulawesi survey indicate that 53% of tambak farming households has a total monthly income less than AUD 60. In Aceh, about 50% of people involved in tambak farming fall below the poverty threshold. Social benefits will accrue from increased social stability due to increased employment opportunities in rural areas and increased access to seafood, with resultant health benefits.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
January 2010 - December 2015

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Dr Jenny-Ann Toribio

PhD Student
Ms Edwina Leslie

Collaborators

National
Dr Ian Patrick, University of New England
Dr Stan Fenwick, Murdoch University
Dr Joanne Millar, Charles Sturt University
Dr Bruce Christie, NSW Department of Primary Industries

International
Dr Sugiyarto, Disease Investigation Centre, Denpasar, Indonesia
Dr Maria Geong, Department of Livestock Provinsi NTT, Indonesia
Ir Muktasam, University of Mataram, Indonesia
Dr Annie Ambarawati, Udayana University, Indonesia

Summary

Management of animal and animal product movement is an essential component of control programs for transboundary animal diseases (TAD). This project, focusing on critical transboundary diseases (highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and classical swine fever (CSF) in Eastern Indonesia and foot and mouth disease (FMD) and CSF in Eastern Australia, will strengthen capacity for effective disease control by identifying livestock trade patterns that are high risk for disease transmission and by supporting formulation and pilot implementation of policy designed to restrict, manage and/or monitor these livestock movements.

This project aim will be achieved by undertaking two types of activities:

Risk Assessment – collection of data on chicken, duck and pig movements and related drivers, conduct of risk assessment to identify the highest risk movements; and estimation of risk reduction and economic benefit likely to be achieved by alternate mitigation strategies (such as restriction, vaccination, surveillance of these movements).

Policy Development – introduction to use of risk and economic information to inform decisions on livestock movement in disease control programs; development of a framework to define and evaluate alternate policies on livestock movement; pilot implementation of a proposed policy; and refinement of the proposed policy based on pilot outcomes.

Government agencies responsible for animal disease control and quarantine in Eastern Indonesia are committed to control and aiming for eradication of HPAI and CSF. Disease control incorporating targeted poultry movement, surveillance and vaccination activities will lead to lower HPAI occurrence in Bali and Lombok. This will benefit all community sectors by increasing the availability of safe poultry products for home consumption, local sale and trade to other provinces, and by reducing perceived risk from HPAI for the tourist industry. Better CSF control from targeted movement, surveillance and vaccination activities leading to eradication will benefit NTT, where prok is the main meat source, by increasing output that will provide additional income and protein sources for smallholder families.

In Eastern Australia will be collected on informal pig movements in the non-commercial sector of the pig industry and use risk assessment to identify movement patterns that pose the greatest risk for the spread of CSF and FMD. Given the dire consequences of CSF or FMD for the Australian livestock industries, the presentation of this currently unknown information to stakeholders will progress discussion on the potential implications of informal pig trade for exotic disease preparedness and response in Australia.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
January 2008 - December 2013

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Associate Professor Helen Scott-Orr
Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio
Professor Richard Whittington

International Collaborators
Dr Pudjiamoko, Director of Animal Health
Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health Services
Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesia
Mr Calisto da Costa Varela,
National Director of Livestock & Veterinary Services
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Timor Leste

Summary

The savannah grasslands of parts of Nusa Tenggara provide an ideal production system for breeding beef cattle for distribution for breeding stock to other parts of Indonesia and Timor Leste. This could help to address the issues of food security and rural poverty in both countries. However, this opportunity is constrained by endemic brucellosis on the island of Timor. Bovine brucellosis is also a public health hazard. Previous attempts to control brucellosis effectively on the island of Timor since the early 1990s have largely failed due to the disruption to veterinary services in East Timor and the variable budgets and complex issues posed by decentralisation and regional autonomy in West (Indonesian) Timor. Eradication of the disease from either part of Timor island remains a distant aim.

The impacts of brucellosis on the livelihoods of smallholder cattle owners are profound due to the severe reduction in reproductive efficiency of affected cows. This also flows through to the overall capacity of Timor to produce cattle and increase Indonesia’s and Timor Leste’s self sufficiency in beef. Notably, the export of breeding cattle from Timor to other parts of Indonesia is now banned due to the presence of brucellosis.

Major issues that need to be addressed include integrated policy and implementation at central, provincial and district levels, as well as improvements in cattle identification and movement control, diagnostics, and veterinary services knowledge and capacity. A long term solution to the brucellosis problem will need an integrated whole-of-Timor island program which implements a long term, well funded strategy. To inform the development of a larger integrated cattle health and production program, this targeted scoping study covering both East and West Timor was undertaken in the period January – June 2012 with visits to the central governments of both Indonesia and Timor Leste. A workshop on cattle health and production in Timor was held in Kupang to inform younger staff from both Indonesia and Timor Leste of past work carried out and determined integrated priorities for the future.

Brucellosis information (including brucellosis prevalence and impacts and cattle production systems and market supply chains) will be reviewed and knowledge gaps determined. The prospects for improved brucellosis control will be assessed and a plan for a three country (Indonesia, Timor Leste and Australia) brucellosis control program will be developed.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
April 2012 - July 2013

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio
Associate Professor Helen Scott-Orr
Mr Russell Hunter

National Collaborators
Dr Marta Hernandez Jover, Lecturer
Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health,
Charles Sturt University
Dr Robert Hedlefs, State Veterinary Medicine
School of Veterinary Science,
James Cook University

Summary

Transboundary diseases spread irrespective of international and national boundaries and cause major economic and social impacts. Rabies, an important zoonotic transboundary disease, has spread in south Asia via the translocation of dogs. Rabies continues to spread through eastern Indonesia and is now less than 500 km from northern Australia. In between the disease front and Australia lies a large susceptible population of dogs, livestock and people. Assessing and ranking the risk of introduction and spread of transboundary diseases allows the prioritisation of resources to prevent further spread via targeted disease surveillance.

The impact of rabies is illustrated by the recent incursion in Bali. Rabies is thought to have been introduced in about October 2007 via the illegal movement of one or more infected dogs on fishing boats. Early disease containment measures (dog movement controls, culling and vaccination) were unsuccessful and rabies subsequently spread throughout Bali. Since the incursion, there have been more than 140 human deaths, large numbers of dogs have been destroyed and more than $10 million has been spent to control the incursion, although most recently progress has been made controlling rabies.

The first step in controlling transboundary disease spread is to understand spread pathways – the methods, routes and vehicles of disease spread. This research will define and describe rabies spread pathways in eastern Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia with the risk of rabies spread via one or more potential spread pathways assessed, data gaps in the risk assessment of regional rabies spread will be identified and rabies surveillance methods will be evaluated to provide advice on how to target surveillance systems so that more effective control can be implemented. Qualitative or quantitative risk analysis methods will be developed and applied.

This research will also create a new network of agencies and institutions (The University of Sydney, James Cook University, Charles Sturt University and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARE)), and disease control and surveillance authorities in Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Australia that includes expertise in epidemiology, public health, risk assessment and economics to tackle the issue of rabies spread and more generally, the spread of transboundary disease within our region.

Source of Funding
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project Timeframe
June 2012 – June 2013

Cattle

Farm Animal Health Staff

Dr Peter White
Professor Emeritus Peter Windsor
Dr Sabrina Lomax

PhD Student
Ms Dominique McCarthy

Summary
This project will investigate new methods of managing pain associated with dehorning, castration, ear notching, branding and spaying of northern beef cattle.

The objectives will be to :
- examine the efficacy of topical anaesthesia (TA), cryoanaesthesia spray and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone and in various combinations, during single routine surgical procedures including dehorning, castration, ear notching, branding and spaying, using behavioural scores, pressure algometry, thermography and physiological parameters including cortisol to enable quantification of pain responses;

- examine the efficacy of topical anaesthesia (TA), cryoanaesthesia spray and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone and in various combinations for multiple combinations of routine husbandry practices as practised routinely on northern beef properties, as directed by results from Objective i;

- monitor the effect of analgesia provided during aversive procedures on production parameters including weight gain, morbidity and mortality.

Source of Funding
Meat and Livestock Australia Limited

Project Time frame
October 2013 – January 2017

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Om Dhungyel
Ms Natalie Schilller
Ms Lechelle van Breda
Mr Craig Kristo

PhD Student
Mrs Karen Williams

National Collaborators
Dr Jane Heller, Charles Sturt University

Summary
Outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. Coli O157:H7) infection associated with consumption of hamburger meat have occurred in the USA over the past few years. Although E. Coli O1257.H7 is not a major public health concern in Australia, it is in North America which is a major market for Australian beef, particularly manufacturing beef sourced largely from cull beef and dairy cows.

Previous studies conducted with MLA support have indicated that only a few animals shed high levels of E. Coli O157 and Australian processing systems appear to cope well with the majority of animals coming to slaughter, but may be less successful when animals shedding very high numbers of E. Coli O157 are presented. Some researchers have estimated that supershedding animals may represent less than 10% of cattle in a herd but can account for more than 96% of all E. Coli O157 shed.

Attention in the USA is increasingly turning towards pre-harvest (that is, live animal) interventions. Supershedding has become an active area for pre-harvest research. Aspects concerning the microbe, the host and the environment are being considered as the information about supershedding in Australia and internationally is quite limited.

This project seeks to conduct a microbiologically and epidemiologically robust investigation of the occurrence and behaviour of E. Coli O157 in supershedders. It will:
- Provide a review of the microbiological techniques available to detect the E. Coli O157 supershedding state;
- Identify effective and efficient methodology for use within the Australian red meat industry;
- Estimate the frequency of occurrence of the supershedding state and predictors of this phenomenon;
- Describe future disease modelling studies that could be undertaken to transform empirical field data to information that can be used by industry to develop a control program.

This information will inform Australian and international understanding of E. Coli O157 supershedding and provide the Australian beef industry with the science and information needed to maintain our reputation for excellent food safety.

Source of Funding
Meat and Livestock Australia Limited

Project Time frame
May 2011 – April 2015

Aquatic animals

Aquatic Animal Health Subprogram: Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) - risk mitigation, epidemiology and OsHV-1 biology FRDC 2012/032

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Ika Paul-Pont
Dr Navneet Dhand
Dr Paul Hick

PhD Student
Ms Olivia Evans

National Collaborators
Dr Cheryl Jenkins, Dr Ian Marsh, Dr Peter Kirkland
NSW Department of Primary Industries,
Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute
RJ & BA Drake Pty Ltd, Georges River
Broken Bay Oyster Association

Summary
There is a disturbing pattern of diseases in commercial molluscs nationally. The mollusc industries have required a succession of government/industry responses with no clear solutions ie QX disease with Sydney rock oysters in NSW and Queensland and NSW pacific oyster mortality syndrome.

Economic impacts have been substantial or devastating. Wild fisheries and aquaculture have been impacted. In NSW, the primary impact of QX disease led to replacement of Sydney rock oysters by triploid Pacific oysters to re-establish the industry in some estuaries, but this is now threatened by POMS. Investigating the behaviour of POMS during its predicted recrudescence in summer provides an opportunity to identify factors which may be used to reduce the impact of the infection.

This project seeks to address six specific research priorities identified by FRDC and will concurrently investigate the effect of host, environment and husbandry factors on POMS prevalence and mortality rate in Pacific oysters with the objective of discovering aspects of epidemiology which can be manipulated by oyster growers. If POMS spreads beyond its current limited distribution in NSW, commercial scale production of Pacific oysters in the face of POMS will be essential for the viability of the industry pending development of technical solutions such as genetically resistant lines.

The research objectives are:
- to determine/confirm the identity of the one or more variant(s) of Ostreid herpesvirus associated with the recent outbreaks of POMS;
- to determine the mechanism(s) of transmission of disease;
- to determine the major risk factors that contribute to precipitation of disease outbreaks thereby identifying potential risk-mitigation management practices;
- to identify the natural reservoir(s) for the virus;
- to determine the stability of the virus in the environment;
- to identify physical and chemical means for viral inactivation;
- to develop an infectivity model for POMS suitable for selection of resistant oysters and pathogenesis/environmental research;
- to address future shortages of technical expertise through the training and supervision of a PhD student.

Source of Funding
Fisheries Research & Development Corporation

Project Timeframe
July 2012 – August 2015

Strategic approaches to identifying pathogens of quarantine concern associated with the importation of ornamental fish FRDC Aquatic Animal Health Subprogram FIS 2014/001

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Dr Joy Becker
Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Navneet Dhand
Dr Paul Hick
Assoc Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio

National Collaborators
Dr Mark Crane, CSIRO Fish Diseases Laboratory
Dr Kate Hutson and Terrence Miller, James Cook University
Dr Andrew Robinson, University of Melbourne
Dr Fran Stephens, Animal Health Laboratory,
Department of Agriculture Western Australia

Summary
The research in this project will underpin disease risk minimisation for imported ornamental fish and associated risks. There is little information available on disease agents carried by imported live ornamental fish and further, the potential for these aquatic animals to be released into the environment presents additional risk. Determination of the range of infectious agents carried by imported fish is required so that appropriate regulations can be put in place to manage the risk.

There is also little information available on other viral, bacterial and parasitic disease agents carried by imported ornamental fish. Specifically, there is a paucity of information available on parasites of imported fish and their potential risk to Australian industries and ecosystems. There is a need to determine whether pathogens of biosecurity significance associated with ornamental fish are entering Australia despite import conditions. The research objectives are:
- to determine the pathogens of potential biosecurity concern on the national list are entering Quarantine Approved Premises (QAPs) in Australia through the trade in ornamental fish;
- to determine if current import conditions for goldfish requiring freedom from specific pathogens are being met;
- to document parasites of potential biosecurity concern that are associated with imported ornamental fish;
- to develop efficient pooled sample strategies for testing imported fish.

This project will provide new knowledge to support improved regulation of imported commodities leading to facilitation of safe trade and enhanced biosecurity for Australia’s aquatic animal industries, the developing domestic ornamental fish breeding industry and Australia’s natural resources. The Department of Agriculture will use data from the project to inform its import policy for ornamental fish which is aimed at managing the likelihood aquatic pathogens of biosecurity significance establishing in Australia with increased community awareness of the biosecurity risks associated with pet fish.

Source of Funding
Fisheries Research & Development Corporation

Project Timeframe
September 2014 – October 2016

Johnes Disease

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Douglas Begg
Dr Kumi de Silva
Dr Karren Plain
Dr Auriol Purdie
Ms Nicole Carter
Mr James Dalton
Mr Craig Kristo
Mrs Rebecca Maurer
Mrs Vicki Patten
Mr Nobel Toribio
Ms Lechelle van Breda
Mrs Anna Waldron
Mrs Ann-Michele Whittington

PhD Students
Mr Ratna Gurung
Ms Shyamala Thirunavukkarasu

National Collaborators

Dr Ian Marsh
NSW Department of Primary Industries,
Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute

International Collaborators

Dr Gregers Jungerson, Danish Veterinary Laboratory
Dr Jayne Hope, Compton Laboratories, UK
Dr Yasuyuki Mori, National Animal Health Institute, Japan
Dr John Bannantine, National Animal Disease Centre, USDA
Dr Torsten Eckstein, College of Veterinary Medicine, Colorado State University
Dr Ad Koets, Utrecht University
Dr Douwe Bakker, The Netherlands
Dr Alan Murray, Massey University New Zealand
Dr Frank Griffin, University of Otago New Zealand

Summary

This project will address key knowledge gaps and concerns identified by peak councils representing red meat and wool producers and lead to technical solutions to improve management and control, and reduce market access risk from Johne’s disease. A program of basic and applied research will be conducted using the latest genomic, immunological and microbiological technologies. International research will be closely monitored to prevent duplication, and there will be integration of research activity to the advantage of Australian industry, while building local capacity.
Johne’s disease has an uneven distribution in Australia with a large part of the country and the majority of beef and sheep flocks apparently free of disease. Management of Johne’s disease nationally, in both sheep and beef cattle, now depends on assessment of risk and acceptance of this risk by the purchaser of livestock. The specific risk is the likelihood that a flock or herd is infected when it is bought and sold. Objective information is used to quantify this risk. In the absence of diagnostic tests with a high sensitivity, certification is based on the level of assurance that can be provided through a flock or herd assessment of risk. Once a herd or flock has established a base level of risk, mitigating practices can be put in place to improve the level of assurance.
The objectives of the project are to:
- provide new diagnostic tools to enable producers to determine more accurately whether herds/flocks are infected or uninfected, which animals in particular are exposed and infected and to predict which animals are at high risk of contaminating the environment before they do so. This will be measured by the adoption rate of new tools;
- develop new genetic approaches to predict accurately which herds/flocks are resistant, which particular animals are resistant and which infected animals will get sick, contaminate the environment or recover. Part of this objective is to determine the relative susceptibility to JD of different breeds, such as pure British sheep and Merino sheep. This will be measured by the availability of new information about breed susceptibility, and leading to large scale validation trials for new genetic tools.
- Conduct research towards a safer, more effective vaccine for sheep and cattle:
a. develop an indirect measure of vaccine efficacy, based on blood and faecal testing, to facilitate the development of a safer more effective vaccine;
b. improve the safety of vaccines by reducing their tendency to cause severe tissue reactions in livestock and humans;
c. trial a prototype vaccine through experimental infection in sheep and cattle. This will be measured by the availability of a new method to conduct vaccine trials, and use of this method to screen vaccine candidates, as well as adoption of safer vaccine formulations in trial.
- maintain and develop capacity in livestock health for the benefit of Australian producers through the training of four postdoctoral fellows and four postgraduate students whose skills and knowledge will be applicable and available to the broader veterinary and agricultural research community as specialist immunologists, pathologists and microbiologists.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia Limited

Project Time Frame
July 2011 - January 2016

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Doug Begg
Dr Kumi de Silva
Dr Karren Plain
Dr Auriol Purdie
Mrs Anna Waldron
Mrs Ann-Michele Whittington
Mrs Vicki Patten

Summary

The diagnosis of bovine Johne’s disease remains a problem because until recently there has been little novel research which has severely limited the development of new diagnostic tests and vaccines. In project P.PSH.0297 translational research was conducted which aimed to deliver practical tools for industry in the near term. As a result a direct faecal PCR test was developed to detect the pathogen Mptb, but the test could not be validated due to insufficient samples from affected cattle. Because the test appeared to have potential, and if validated would provide results to producers within a few days instead of the current 3 months for culture, there was an imperative to procure suitable samples to validate the test.

The project evolved in two phases:
- collection of faecal and blood samples from 2,472 head of beef cattle from a Johne’s disease affected property in Tasmania, shipment of samples to Sydney, archiving and storage of samples;
- testing of approximately 200 high priority samples using faecal culture, faecal PCR and serum ELISA for Johne’s disease, and incorporation of the results into a dataset for validation of a faecal PCR test for use in beef cattle.

Of the 2,472 samples, 378 were selected for examination and were tested in both faecal culture and the new direct faecal PCR test. Of the 378 samples, 98 were positive in faecal culture and 111 were positive in faecal PCR. The selection of samples was successful for the purpose of validation of the PCR test. Remaining aliquots of the samples which were tested, as well as the samples which were not tested during this project were archived for future examination and represent a very valuable resource for BJD test development and validation, including in an active project P.PSH.0576.

Source of Funding
Meat and Livestock Australia Limited

Project Time Frame
December 2011 – April 2012

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Karren Plain

International Collaborators

Utah State University

Summary

DNA samples will be collected from cattle in the current Johne’s disease trial with analysis of the MHC haplotype, and matching of haplotype to disease outcome.

Blood samples will be collected from animals in the trial which have been allocated to treatment and control groups since 2005 (both vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals). DNA will be purified from each sample and will be carefully archived. DNA samples will then be sent to Utah State University for MHC analysis under a Materials Transfer Agreement; haplotype will be allocated. Note that the validity of the whole approach, including all aspects of sample collection, DNA purification, shipment to the USA, sequencing and analysis will be pre-checked using samples from 30 head of cattle in a paratuberculosis trial (P.PSH.0297-2).

The haplotype data from the trial will be analysed under Project P.PSH.0576 for association with each of the disease outcome variables, using data provided by Pfizer Animal Health. Separate analysis will be conducted for vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals in order to look for associations between haplotype and responsiveness to vaccination per se. DNA samples will be retained for genetic analysis at other loci which have been identified as being of interest in Project P.PSH.0297.

Objectives:
- to collect a library of DNA samples from cattle with and without Johne’s disease and with different degrees of immune response following vaccination;
- to generate MHC haplotype data for each cow for later analysis.

Source of Funding
Meat and Livestock Australia Limited

Project Time Frame
June 2011 – June 2012

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Douglas Begg
Dr Kumi de Silva
Dr Karren Plain
Dr Auriol Williams
Ms Nicole Carter
Ms Sophie Hoft
Mr Craig Kristo
Mrs Rebecca Maurer
Mr Jesse McIvor
Mr Nobel Toribio
Mrs Anna Waldron
Mrs Ann-Michele Whittington

PhD Students
Ms Satoko Kawaji
Mrs Kate Bower
Mr RB Gurung
Ms Shyamala Thirunavukkarasu

National Collaborators

Dr Ian Marsh, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute

International Collaborators

Dr Jayne Hope, Compton Institute, UK
Dr Gregers Jungerson, Danish Veterinary Laboratory
Dr Yasuyuki Mori, National Animal Health Institute, Japan
Dr Torsten Eckstein, Colorado State University

Summary

Ovine Johnes disease (OJD) is caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) remains a significant issue for sheep industries throughout southern Australia. It can be responsible for significant losses if left uncontrolled. Vaccination to reduce the prevalence of clinical disease within infected flocks has been very successful, with widespread adoption by affected producers. In addition, vaccination is used to improve flock status in a risk based trading scheme. However, vaccination does not prevent infection, and rates of shedding of MAP remain high on several properties where the vaccine has been used, there are injection site reactions in sheep and occupational health and safety risks for producers. Furthermore, some producers have ceased to vaccinate due to reductions in flock mortality rates, high cost of vaccine and reduced farm incomes due to the drought. In addition, producers in some regions where OJD is uncommon or absent continue to exclude sheep from endemic regions, which is impacting on trading options of producers. Food safety is also a concern. Although controversial and still unproven, MAP has been proposed as a potential cause of Crohns Disease in humans.

Internationally, JD is considered to be a significant threat to the livestock sector, regardless of the species affected. Public health authorities in many develop countries have adopted a neutral position on the possible link between MAP originating in livestock and the occurrence of the organism and disease in humans. Nevertheless, animal health authorities in many countries have introduced, or plan to introduce control programs for JD. These will depend on research programs on JD in the EU/Europe, Japan and North America and smaller research programs in many other places. These countries are trading partners and/or competitors of the Australian red meat industries. For market access insurance, Australia needs to be engaged with R&D at an international standard. Currently there is very little basic research on JD in Australia other than that in a recently completed MLA project, OJD.031. That research program led to a substantial Australian capacity in this field of research. The research needs for OJD are complementary to those of BJD.
This project is a program of basic and applied research that aims to develop new diagnostic tests for OJD and, through a program of basic research on the pathogenesis of the disease, increase understanding of the immune response to infection, dormancy of the bacterium and how this relates to chronic infection and transmission of the bacterium.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Time Frame
January 2008 - March 2011

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Peter Windsor
Professor Richard Whittington
Mrs Anna Waldron

National Collaborators

Dr Jeff Eppleston,
Central Tablelands Livestock Health & Pesticides Authority
Dr Evan Sergeant, AusVet Animal Health Services

Summary

Ovine Johnes disease (OJD) caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is a major issue for the sheep industries of southern Australia, causing significant on-farm losses, division within the industry, plus potential public health concerns. Control of OJD in Australia now depends heavily on use of Gudair TM vaccine to control on-farm losses and to reduce the risk of disease spread. Research undertaken during the six-year National Ovine Johne’s Disease Program (NOJDP) demonstrated that the current vaccine is highly effective in reducing mortalities due to OJD and shedding of organisms, but some sheep still develop severe clinical disease, shed heavily and die.

This Project will continue the work of OJD.033 in assessing the long-term efficacy of Gudair TM vaccine for reducing bacterial shedding in merino flocks in the central tablelands of NSW of initial low, medium or high OJD prevalence. OJD.033 commenced in 2003 in 12 flocks (only 11 achieved complete data) and demonstrated significant decline in shedding on most farms but persistence of low rates of shedding on 10 of the 11 farms at completion of the sampling in 2008, when all sheep in the flocks were vaccinated.

Industry recommendations were to extend the study to determine the rate of decline and degree of shedding when all animals in these 11 flocks are second generation vaccinates, that is, progeny of lambs born when the entire flock consisted of approved vaccinates. The 11 flocks will continue to be assessed for an additional 3 rounds of sampling at 2 yearly intervals and the OJD prevalence rates will be compared to current estimates.

The purpose of the project is to assess the long term efficacy of GudairTM vaccine for the reduction in bacterial shedding in flocks of initial low, medium or high OJD prevalence. The major outcome from the project will be to better enable producers and their advisors to predict the infectivity of flocks over an extended period since the commencement of a vaccination program, for the purposes of trading sheep, the cessation of vaccination and the removal of risk status from a flock. The information provided will inform the decision making process of stakeholders who may review the ABC Scheme on the basis of further information provided through this project.

By September 2015, the project will have measured changes in shedding in 11 OJD infected flocks on 6 occasions since vaccination commenced in 2002, providing accurate estimates of the decline and risk of shedding from vaccinated sheep in flocks of varying initial OJD prevalence. This information will enable producers and advisors to predict the infectivity of flocks following an extended period of vaccination and is important for advising on the trading of sheep, the cessation of vaccination and the removal of a risk status from a flock.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Time Frame
July 2010 – January 2016

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Peter Windsor
Professor Richard Whittington
Mrs Anna Waldron

National Collaborators

Dr Jeff Eppleston,
Central Tablelands Rural Lands Protection Board
Dr Evan Sergeant, AusVet Animal Health Services

Summary

Ovine Johnes disease (OJD) caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is a major issue for the sheep industries of southern Australia, causing significant on-farm losses, division within the industry, plus potential public health concerns. Control of OJD in Australia now depends heavily on use of Gudair TM vaccine to control on-fa losses and to reduce the risk of disease spread. Research undertaken during the six-year National Ovine Johne’s Disease Program (NOJDP) demonstrated that the current vaccine is highly effective in reducing mortalities due to OJD and shedding of organisms, but some sheep still develop severe clinical disease, shed heavily and die. This research supported the registration of the vaccine for use in sheep in Australia, and it is now widely used as a disease control and risk management tool. However, the original vaccine evaluation was undertaken in a single generation of vaccinated lambs in three heavily infected flocks in the central tablelands area of NSW, under conditions of very high challenge. This has given rise to speculation that:

  • Efficacy of the vaccine might have been underestimated because of the high-challenge situation in the trail flocks; and
  • The vaccine may be more effective in lower-prevalence flocks than was observed in the high-prevalence trial flocks.
  • Although modelling suggests that long-term use of vaccine will provide highly effective control and suppression of shedding, even in heavily infected flocks, this has never been verified experimentally. This has important implications for the value attributed to flock-vaccination in any flock-assurance scheme, as highlighted in recent discussions for continuation of the national program.

Further research on vaccine efficacy is well advanced, in a longitudinal study of shedding from three generations of sheep vaccinated as lambs (MLA project OJD.033). However, as this project is limited to only 12 flocks in central NSW and final results are not expected until early 2009, there is a need for a broader study on the impact of vaccination on shedding rates in flocks of varying initial prevalence. As recent results from OJD.033 have indicated that the profound decrease in shedding over time may not be achieved in all participating flocks, the reasons for this need to be investigated. In addition, investigations in a greater number of flocks to support this project and to provide an earlier indication of longer-term effects of vaccination in flocks of known infection and vaccination history, is needed.
The purpose of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of GudairTM vaccine in reducing OJD prevalence and bacterial shedding in a range of flocks of known OJD prevalence, at about five years after the commencement of vaccination.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Time Frame
January 2008 - November 2009

Pigs

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Michael Ward
Dr Om Dhungyel

PhD Student
Ms Lechelle van Breda

Summary
The aim of the project is to determine the risks inherent in a piggery environment responsible/contributing to E.coli disease via an epidemiological risk factor characterisation study using collected data in development of integrated health strategies. This includes the appropriate diagnostics and then appropriate strategies to control the disease with respect to the risk factors identified on an individual farm.

A system will be developed that can be used by producers to score their risk of E.coli disease, identify potential control points, implement corrective strategies and measure success in reducing disease and increasing production and welfare. This project addresses the core of the system by generating information on the contribution of a comprehensive array of factors to the occurrence of E.coli disease. The comprehensive and integrative approach will virtually guarantee that useful and applied information will be generated. Creation of a scoring system will assist the industry to reduce its reliance on pharmaceutical interventions to prevent and control E.coli disease.

A steering committee of industry animal health professionals will be formed to map relevant causal pathways – both known and suspected – for E.coli disease in commercial herds. A group of experts representing industry, agency and academic perspectives will be assembled to identify up to 100 potential risk factors for E.coli disease. Up to 20 farms with a range of experiences with E.coli will be identified and it is anticipated that the farms will also represent all the major genotypes within Australia.

Risk factors chosen must meet the following criteria:
- the ability to provide objective and standardised data;
- the ability to be described accurately;
- relevance to the issue and production;
- availability (data is relatively easy to collect); and,
- ability to provide accurate data.

Information on disease occurrence and history and production will also be collected. This project will also provide the common linkage and samples for the other Pork CRC projects relating to aspects of E.coli disease management and investigation. These include:
- collection of data that can be gained by observation, questioning and simple non-laboratory measurement;
- identification of a full range of E.coli virulence genes strains by farm isolate;
- characterisation of at least four common Australian pig genotypes on farm for, F4 and F18 resistance;
- determination of antibiotic and disinfectant sensitivity of pathogenic E.coli;
- determination of the rations of E.coli to Lactobacillus spp, Bacillus spp, Clostridia and Streptococci in the faeces, a test of gut health;
- field test final risk factors identified and score farms as to level of risk to relate to production losses associated with E.coli disease;
- epidemiological study to trim risk factors to most significant factors (greatest impact).

Source of Funding
Pork Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)

Project Timeframe
July 2013 – December 2015

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Brendan Cowled
Dr Marta Hernandez Jover

PhD Student
Ms Victoria Brookes

National Collaborator
Dr Trish Holyoake, Victorian Department of Primary Industries

Summary
Emerging and transboundary diseases have been responsible for dramatic impacts on human health, the economy, trade, animal health and biodiversity in Australia and around the world. This project is to undertake risk assessment and modelling of the threat of exotic diseases to the pig industry in Australia and the initiation of research into the role of feral pigs as a potential reservoir of exotic diseases, particularly foot-and-mouth disease. Along with foot-and-mouth disease, the other main emergency animal diseases that could affect the pig industry are Classical swine fever; African swine fever; Aujeszky’s disease; Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS); and, Postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS).

The Australian pig industry’s health status provides it with a competitive advantage. Freedom from major transboundary diseases – such as foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever – secures access to international markers and enables producers to invest in their businesses free from the complication of major incursions, ensures the industry’s future sustainability and allows it to meet community standards for food production. The disease modelling project – including disease spread scenarios and the impact of control measures in the spread of disease, the costs of containment and the costs to producers of disease control options – will ensure that APL is well informed about likely scenarios and potential costs of an exotic disease incursion.

Project objectives:
- Undertake a risk assessment to prioritise the potential exotic disease hazards for the Australian pig industry;
- Develop a simulation model specifically tailored to exotic disease spread in the Australian pig industry;
- Parameterize the disease spread model via literature review, expert opinion and questionnaire surveys; and,
- Targeting the three highest exotic disease hazards, prioritize future surveillance based on estimated epidemic size, duration and financial impact.

This project proposes an innovative approach integrating risk assessment and disease spread modelling to fully examine, for the first time, the risks and consequences to the Australian pig industry of exotic diseases. This information will be applied to meet industry objectives (prepare, rapidly respond and recover from crises and emergencies with minimal disruption) and to enhance contingency plans for emergency animal diseases.

Source of Funding
Australian Pork Limited

Project Timeframe
January 2011 – September 2014

Sheep

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Dr Navneet Dhand
Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor
Professor Richard Whittington
Mrs Anna Waldron

National Collaborators

Dr Jeff Eppleston,
Central Tablelands Local Land Services, NSW DPI
Dr Evan Sergeant, AusVet Animal Health Services

Summary

Ovine Johnes disease (OJD) caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is a major issue for the sheep industries of southern Australia, causing significant on-farm losses, division within the industry, plus potential public health concerns. Control of OJD in Australia now depends heavily on use of Gudair™ vaccine to control on-farm losses and to reduce the risk of disease spread. Research undertaken during the six-year National Ovine Johne’s Disease Program (NOJDP) demonstrated that the current vaccine is highly effective in reducing mortalities due to OJD and shedding of organisms, but some sheep still develop severe clinical disease, shed heavily and die.

This Project will continue the work of OJD.033 in assessing the long-term efficacy of Gudair™ vaccine for reducing bacterial shedding in merino flocks in the central tablelands of NSW of initial low, medium or high OJD prevalence. OJD.033 commenced in 2003 in 12 flocks (only 11 achieved complete data) and demonstrated significant decline in shedding on most farms but persistence of low rates of shedding on 10 of the 11 farms at completion of the sampling in 2008, when all sheep in the flocks were vaccinated.

Industry recommendations were to extend the study to determine the rate of decline and degree of shedding when all animals in these 11 flocks are second generation vaccinates, that is, progeny of lambs born when the entire flock consisted of approved vaccinates. The 11 flocks will continue to be assessed for an additional 3 rounds of sampling at 2 yearly intervals and the OJD prevalence rates will be compared to current estimates.

The purpose of the project is to assess the long term efficacy of Gudair™ vaccine for the reduction in bacterial shedding in flocks of initial low, medium or high OJD prevalence. The major outcome from the project will be to better enable producers and their advisors to predict the infectivity of flocks over an extended period since the commencement of a vaccination program, for the purposes of trading sheep, the cessation of vaccination and the removal of risk status from a flock. The information provided will inform the decision making process of stakeholders who may review the ABC Scheme on the basis of further information provided through this project.

By September 2015, the project will have measured changes in shedding in 11 OJD infected flocks on 6 occasions since vaccination commenced in 2002, providing accurate estimates of the decline and risk of shedding from vaccinated sheep in flocks of varying initial OJD prevalence. This information will enable producers and advisors to predict the infectivity of flocks following an extended period of vaccination and is important for advising on the trading of sheep, the cessation of vaccination and the removal of a risk status from a flock.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Time Frame
July 2010 – January 2016

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Om Dhungyel
Mr Craig Kristo

National Collaborators

Professor Julian Rood - Principal Investigator
Department of Microbiology, Monash University
Dr Ruth Kennan
Department of Microbiology, Monash University

Summary

Ovine footrot is a debilitating and highly infectious disease that affects the feet of sheep and can lead to loss of body weight and reduced meat and wool production. Since there is no universal vaccine that is protective against all serotypes of the causative agent, Dichelobacter nodosus, there is a clear and urgent need for a multivalent footrot vaccine that protects sheep against all serogroups of D. nodosus.

Previous attempts to develop an effective footrot vaccine have focussed on the fimbriae produced by D.nodosus which are essential for virulence and are the major surface antigens. However there are ten major immunologically distinct fimbrial serogroups in D.nodosus and individual infections are often caused by more than one serogroup. These fimbriae are immunoprotective, but vaccination with a monovalent footrot vaccine will only protect against disease caused by isolates of the same serogroup. Multivalent fimbrial vaccines have been developed, but they are of limited value because of antigenic competition.

Reverse vaccinology is the process whereby complete genome sequence information is used to generate a list of potential vaccine candidates by use of bioinformatics tools. The genes encoding these candidates are then cloned, overexpressed and the resultant proteins tested for their ability to protect against disease. The advantages of this approach over more conventional methods that are used to identify vaccine candidates are that it allows the identification of a broader spectrum of antigens, including those that may be masked by immunodominant proteins, it allows the analysis of all potential candidates from organisms that are more difficult to grow in laboratory conditions and it avoids any bias towards previously well studied vaccine candidates.

Several years ago we sequenced the genome of a virulent strain of D. nodosus and showed that this organism only carried 1299 potential genes. Subsequently, we decided to use this resource in a reverse vaccinology approach to identify genes encoding putative surface or secreted proteins that could be used to develop a multivalent vaccine against footrot. More recently we have sequenced a further 85 strains from Australia, Norway, Denmark, UK, India, Bhutan and Nepal. These strains show remarkable sequence conservation, indicating that potential vaccine antigens are likely to be present in all D.nodosus isolates. From the complete D.nodosus genome, we identified 99 genes that were either secreted or surface located and therefore represented potential vaccine candidates. We have successfully cloned and overexpressed 89 of these proteins in Escherichia coli. With the assistance of funding from Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), 63 of these recombinant proteins were tested in pen vaccination trials in sheep, which encouragingly showed that all of these proteins were capable of stimulating a specific antibody response. In addition, there are another 26 antigens that remain to be tested in sheep to determine if there are more protective antigens that could be used alone or in combination with the antigens already identified, to develop a multivalent footrot vaccine.

The aim of this project is to complete the testing of these antigens in sheep and to determine which antigens, either alone or in combination, have potential for the development of an effective vaccine that could be used for the protection of sheep against footrot.

Source of funding
Meat & Livestock Australia Limited

Project timeframe
July 2013 – July 2016

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Richard Whittington
Dr Om Dhungyel
Mrs Natalie Schiller
Mr Craig Kristo

PhD Student
Mr Andrew McPherson – funded by:
The Ian H (Peter) Wrigley PhD Research Scholarship

National Collaborators

Professor Julian Rood and Dr Ruth Kennan
Department of Microbiology, Monash University

Summary

Virulent footrot is a serious disease of sheep in southern Australia. As well as production impacts there are very serious animal welfare considerations. Diagnosis of footrot is cumbersome, expensive and slow and this hinders disease control. Modern technologies exist which can be applied to improve diagnosis. This project will have three phases – a laboratory research program, a field research program and a training program.


The project will develop new modern diagnostic tests for virulent footrot that will be based on the direct examination of swabs collected from the feet of sheep. The test results will be available to sheep producers within 72 hours at lower cost than current tests. The results of the tests will indicate i) whether the disease outbreak is virulent, and therefore whether control or eradication is necessary; and, ii) which serogroups of Dichelobacter nodosus bacteria are present in order that the correct specific vaccine can be applied for control or eradication of the disease. The tests will be standardised across animal health laboratories in Australia. The capacity for sheep health research in Australia will be improved by training a PhD student and several honours students during the project. National capacity will be increased by convening a workshop for representatives from sheep producing regions throughout Australia.


Source of funding
Meat & Livestock Australia Limited

Project timeframe
July 2014 – May 2017

arm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor
Dr Peter White
Dr Sabrina Lomax (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Collaborators

Bayer Animal Health Australia
Animal Ethics Pty Limited

Summary

This project will provide research solutions for improving the reputation of Australian wool production by developing and promoting best practice sheep health and welfare. The project has four elements:

i) expansion from pilot studies on use of post-operative topical anaesthesia with and without peri-operative low dose parenteral xylazine analgesia to improve welfare of tail docking, castration and mulesing in lambs; and,

ii) assess the efficacy of reduced mulesing wound size by shifting mulesing of spring lambs to well after weaning when conformation of perineal wrinkle and assessment of dag score in hoggets is more readily achieved by objective measure;

iii) refine and document objective indicators of merino welfare issues, including validation of pain models using behavioural scores enabling quantification of pain and distress responses to husbandry procedures with analgesia;

iv) conduct social research to determine producer and consumer attitudes towards painful husbandry procedures and the use of various analgesia regimes used at routine husbandry procedures.

The project progresses work previously conducted in an ARC Linkage project by this research team with the same collaborators that provided evidence for the efficacy of topical anaesthesia as a peri-operative pain management strategy for mulesing. That project led to the successful registration of Tri-Solfen®, a wound spray formulation distributed through veterinarians for use by wool producers during the mulesing procedure used for flystrike control. In the 2011 and 2012 lamb marking seasons, it was estimated that over 70% of lambs that were mulesed were provided with pain management, suggesting a paradigm shift has commenced in attitudes to animal welfare on Australian sheep farms.


Source of funding
Australian Wool Innovation Limited

Time frame
November 2012 – October 2015

Other

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Student
Ms Sabrina Lomax

National Collaborators
Associate Professor Peter Wynn, Charles Sturt University
Dr Robert Cranna, Bayer Australia Limited
Dr Meredith Sheil, Animal Ethics Pty Limited

Summary
Painful husbandry procedures – tail –docking, castration, dehorning, ear-knotching, branding, and mulesing (sheep only) – are routinely conducted without analgesia in Australian livestock, resulting in acute pain and stress responses in millions of young animals each year. This is rapidly becoming a critical animal welfare issue, with important social, political and commercial ramifications. To date, practical and economic constraints have bee a barrier to the development of effective pain management strategies.

The aim of the project is to address this issue by investigating the use of topical and cryo-anaesthesia as an effective, practical and cost-effective analgesic option that can be used on-farm for large-scale production systems. Specific aims:

To develop a novel technique of achieving rapid pre-operative local tissue anaesthesia using cryo-anaesthesia with supercooled CO2 gas application to wooled or fur covered skin;

To investigate the impact of using (i) pre-operative cryo-anaesthesia and (ii) post-operative topically applied local anaesthetic applications, both alone and in combination, during those painful routine animal husbandry procedures on:
- pain prevention and alleviation, using an indicator of pain and stress that the CIs are developing (direct sensory testing), and conventional indicators such as beta endorphin and cortisol, and behavioural analysis of treated and untreated animals; and
- recovery indicators such as animal behaviour, blood loss, wound healing, and weight gain, including a powerful digital wound-mapping technique that the CIs are developing.

To develop a novel biochemical approach to measure acute adrenergic responses in lymphocytes isolated from animals subjected to the production procedures. This will be assessed by quantifying tyrosine phosphorylation of β2-adrenergic receptors in lymphocytes. It has been shown previously with pigs, this technique provides a measure for reliabity and indicating the magnitude of the acute response to stress.

Source of Funding
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Project Timeframe
January 2008 - December 2011

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Brendan Cowled

National Collaborators
Dr Shawn Laffan, The University of New South Wales
Associate Professor Stephen Sarre, University of Canberra
Dr Andrew Woolnough, Department of Agriculture & Food, WA
Dr Graeme Garner, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Dr Ian Marsh, NSW Department of Industry & Investment, EMAI

Summary

This project is based on the feral pig, an introduced wildlife species. Wildlife populations have been responsible for many recent disease emergencies with economic and human health impacts, but our understanding limits management, prevention and preparedness.

This project will use feral pigs in northern Australia as a case study for characterising wildlife disease dynamics (using Salmonellosis) with a novel integration of population and epidemiological genetic approaches, demographics and simulation modelling. We will then address a problem of great importance to agriculture in Australia – the role of feral pigs in trans-boundary infectious disease transmission.

In collaboration with project partners, a framework (tools and methods) will be developed to assist understanding and management of wildlife disease and its impact on domestic livestock production, specifically:
- Quantify and describe endemic disease transmission in feral pigs and cattle in northern Australia;
- Forecast the potential role that feral pigs might play in exotic trans-boundary animal disease (eg Foot-and-Mouth disease and Classical Swine Fever) incursions;
- Define appropriate surveillance and mitigation strategies for managing trans-boundary disease incursions involving feral pigs and other wildlife populations.

By achieving these aims, a core biosecurity objective of the partners will be addressed: preparedness for emergency disease events. Achievement of these aims will also result in a conceptual leap forward in our understanding of wildlife disease epidemiology, thus improving the management of many endemic wildlife diseases of importance for the partners.

Source of Funding
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant
Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Cattle Disease Contingency Fund Pty Limited

Project Timeframe
July 2010 – June 2013

FA&VPH Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Salome Durr

National Collaborator
Dr Peter Fleming, Principal Research Scientist
Invasive Species Branch, Biosecurity NSW
NSW Department of Primary Industries

Summary
The main focus of the project is to determine contact rates between different segments of the dog population of tropical and eastern Australia, with the development of models for rabies establishment and spread, and the intention to feed this information into rabies control policy. For this exercise work will be focussed across the north of Australia. While models have been developed to understand ecology of various mammals, none have been really valuable for rabies control. One of the principle problems with such models is that the contact rates that they depend on, and which are usually estimated from data of healthy animals, do not apply well to animals once they develop clinical rabies.

Determination of contact parameters would not be highly valuable for rabies control. Instead, the focus will be on movement of domestic dogs by humans and dog census information. In most dog populations around the world, dog rabies moves principally by transportation of dogs by humans, and this is likely to be the case in Australia.

It will be valuable to ascertain population sizes and demographic parameters (eg age structure) of the various dog population segments. This data would indicate potential vulnerabilities to population and rabies control efforts. Data will be collected to validate extrapolation methods for calculating owned dog population sizes (such as human:dog ratios) that allow relatively easy estimation of dog population sizes based on human census data. Also, analyses of potential control points for non-owned dogs, by dart-vaccination or oral vaccination, and relative cost-efficacy analyses, eg vaccination versus dog removal, could be useful. These data could be collected partially by well-designed owner interviewer surveys for owned dogs, and by standard wildlife methods for wild dogs and dingoes.


Source of Funding
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Wildlife Exotic Disease Preparedness Program Funding 2012 - 13

Project Timeframe
July 2013 – December 2015

Farm Animal Health Staff
Dr Navneet Dhand
Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio
Dr Kate Sawford

Collaborators
Dr Melanie Taylor*, University of Western Sydney
Dr Nina Kung and Dr Hume Field, Queensland Centre
for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity Queensland
Dr Barbara Moloney and Therese Wright,
NSW Department of Primary Industries
* Lead Investigator

Summary
The project will provide a flexible and responsive research methodology for the study of factors influencing Hendra virus (HeV) risk awareness and the uptake of risk mitigation practices by horse owners to prevent transmission. The research will involve the recruitment of a large and inclusive cohort of horse owners from across all industry sectors that will be followed over a two year period and will address a number of areas.

The project will provide both a research platform and a resource to track the dynamic nature of horse owner risk awareness, mitigation practices, and the effectiveness and reach of government agency-directed communication and guidance in the context of an evolving and uncertain threat.

Horse owners from across all industry sectors will be recruited to form a cohort of at least 2400, with a minimum two thirds from Queensland and New South Wales. Horse owners outside current HeV risk areas will be included, as a reference group and to provide research flexibility should future outbreaks occur outside current risk regions. The project will use online/internet based data collection and communication methods. This provides significant benefits in cost effectiveness, speed and efficiency of data management, tracking of non-responses and there is no upper limit on cohort membership. Additionally, 500 participants without internet access will take part via postal methods. Advanced statistical analyses will evaluate relationships between HeV risk perceptions and risk mitigation practices, and identify factors influencing changes in perception and practice over time.

Source of Funding
Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation

Project Timeframe
May 2012 – May 2015