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Beyond the Bale : December 2017
In 2015, breakthrough research undertaken by the University of Melbourne and co-funded by AWI, identified all 14,554 genes that make up the sheep blowfly, and discovered 2,062 genes not seen before in any other organism. In a new development, University of Melbourne researchers have recently narrowed down the number of identified ‘orphan’ (unique) blowfly genes from the original 2,062 to 772, mainly due to the increased availability of other insect genome sequences. Dr Clare Anstead said some of these orphan genes hold the key to the parasitic relationship between the blowfly and the sheep, and could be targeted to develop a completely new method of flystrike control. “A potential outcome from future work is the development of a vaccine that targets a gene which could stop flystrike in its earliest stages by accessing vital proteins in the maggots, killing them. Alternatively, genomic-guided drug discovery could result in the development of insecticides that selectively kill fly maggots but do not harm the host animal.” AWI Program Manager of Sheep Health & Welfare, Bridget Peachey, said the aim of this avenue of research is ultimately University of Melbourne researchers Dr Trent Perry and Dr Clare Anstead. BLOWFLY GENE RESEARCH FOR FLYSTRIKE CONTROL Research into the genetic variation within the Australian sheep blowfly Lucilia cuprina has made further progress – which might ultimately provide a crucial foundation for the development of new drugs and vaccine for effective and sustainable flystrike control. to produce new insecticides and vaccines for woolgrowers to complement current flystrike prevention measures. “The dependence on current chemical treatments remains critical in high rainfall and high dag wool-growing regions, while in low rainfall and dag incidence regions, the use of chemicals is more tactical and used in years of high strike risk only,” she said. “A key challenge for all is that, although cyromazine and dicyclanil remain effective, there are continuing signs of increasing resistance to these chemicals, so new sustainable options would be very welcome.” Researcher Dr Trent Perry added: “The identification of sheep blowfly genes also enables the prediction of gene mutation in flies that could make them resistant to chemicals,” which would help with drug resistance challenges. Also as part of this AWI-funded project, DNA sequence analysis will measure the extent to which blowflies vary, and migrate, around Australia (see box right) and search for the natural occurrence of an endosymbiotic bacteria, Wolbachia, that may contribute to sustainable blowfly control. As part of the AWI-funded project, University of Melbourne researchers are seeking woolgrowers from across Australia who are willing to trap and collect 30 adult blowflies on their property for use in their research. The effectiveness of any potential flystrike vaccine could be compromised by genetic variation in the Australian sheep blowfly Lucilia cuprina. Specifically, in blowfly populations in different environments across the country, the genes encoding the target proteins need to have minimal genetic variation from the ‘optimal version’ of the target protein, otherwise they may be less susceptible to a vaccine. Researchers are therefore seeking expressions of interest from woolgrowers across Australia – in both badly affected flystrike areas and less affected areas – willing to collect 30 adult blowflies from their property and send them through to the researchers. For those that do not usually apply trapping as a control method the researchers can provide traps for the work (which is a simple process). The researchers will then extract DNA from the individual blowflies and perform whole genome re-sequencing on the pooled DNA. This will produce a detailed snapshot of the level of genetic variability that exists across the genome in contemporary blowfly populations across Australia. Due to the researchers needing to receive samples from a broad range of diverse regions across Australia, the researchers ask that woolgrowers express their interest in participating to the researchers prior to blowfly collection. It is anticipated that the trapping/collection would need to take place across the current flystrike season but only one or two different collections from a woolgrower’s property would be required. Researchers are looking for blowflies from about 20-30 sites across Australia. If you are selected by the researchers to take part, the researchers will liaise with you regarding the best ways and requirements to trap/capture the 30 blowflies, and the couriering arrangements for the dispatch of the blowflies to the researchers at the University of Melbourne. I’M INTERESTED. WHO DO I CONTACT? Please email Dr Trent Perry at the University of Melbourne on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in collecting 30 blowflies from your property to be used in the research project. YOUR CHANCE TO GET INVOLVED! 46 ON FARM