Scottish scientists are developing a new vaccine to help farmers and crofters protect their sheep from enzootic abortion.
Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute, based on the outskirts of Edinburgh, say their findings could lead to a new, more effective vaccine for ovine enzootic abortion – also known as chlamydial abortion.
The disease, which is one of the most common infectious causes of abortion in sheep in the UK, is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia abortus, which invades the placenta during pregnancy and can also cause life-threatening illness and abortion in humans.
The disease is easily spread because infected lambs, placentas and excretions provide a source of infection to other sheep through ingestion and inhalation.
Moredun’s Dr David Longbottom said his team had completed the first stage of development of a new vaccine that is similar to the live variation of current vaccines, but without the ability to grow and cause infections in the host animal.
He said: “We are very encouraged by the results we have seen with the new vaccine as it is able to induce effective immune responses in sheep protecting against abortion and because the new vaccine is not live, it will not cause infection in vaccinated animals, giving additional safety benefits.”
Moredun’s scientific director, Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, welcomed the findings and said: “Ovine enzootic abortion is a very serious disease for the sheep industry, and we are hopeful that this new research may lead to a new safe and effective vaccine.
“In the meantime, we would strongly advise all livestock producers to keep vaccinating their flocks with the currently available vaccines and take advice from their farm vets to reduce the risk from Chlamydia abortus.”
Researchers will now work to develop the vaccine further.