Australian Wool Innovation announces $650,000 boost for flystrike vaccine research

Research into flystrike prevention via vaccine injection has progressed with successful lab results.
Camera IconResearch into flystrike prevention via vaccine injection has progressed with successful lab results. Credit: Bob Garnant/The West Australian, Bob Garnant

Australian Wool Innovation has bolstered its $2.5 million investment in creating the first flystrike vaccine, this week announcing it had pumped another $650,000 into the cause.

The marketing and research body this week announced it had tipped $650,000 into a collaborative project with CSIRO to fast-track further investigations into the development of a flystrike vaccine.

The research is expected to build on early AWI funded flystrike vaccine research by CSIRO and the University of Melbourne to tackle flystrike.

AWI chairman Jock Laurie said it was an important investment on behalf of woolgrowers and promises to be a game changer.

“Growers have been asking for a flystrike vaccine for decades and now, thanks to modern technology and our improved understanding of the blowfly genome, the current CSIRO flystrike vaccine team has advanced further and faster than previous attempts,” he said.

CSIRO senior scientist Tony Vuocolo led the vaccine research for flystrike prevention.
Camera IconCSIRO senior scientist Tony Vuocolo led the vaccine research for flystrike prevention. Credit: Australian Wool Innovation

The CSIRO team, led by senior scientist Tony Vuocolo, has conducted over 45 trials in the lab in the last two years to measure the impact of the sheep response on larval growth in vitro.

“Early CSIRO findings show that some of these candidate vaccines are having effects on the blowfly by stunting maggot growth, with some dying,” Dr Vuocolo said.

AWI research general manager Jane Littlejohn said she was happy with the progress being made and said that AWI was eagerly anticipating this new research opportunity, with the board releasing funds from the AWI’s discretionary reserve for 12 months of supercharged formulation testing.

“Due to the time involved in researching, developing and taking a vaccine to market there won’t be a vaccine for growers’ use this time next year,” she said.

“But let’s hope CSIRO can take some giant steps towards this ultimate outcome in the next 12 months.

“We hope upcoming CSIRO testing will show the life cycle of the vaccine affected maggots will be severely compromised.

“Tackling flystrike with more tools and better integration of tools to manage this lethal condition is our number one research priority.”

Dr Littlejohn said a successful vaccine would be part of a wider flystrike management program including preserving the effectiveness of chemical prevention.

The University of Melbourne’s use of whole genome sequencing data from selected blowfly populations was informing the development of the flystrike vaccine, and also aiding in building a detailed understanding of Australian blowfly populations.

A three-year project by the university to sample the DNA of field strains of blowflies from across the country, involving the collection of more than 2000 samples from 210 locations, recently concluded, and analysis of the results of the DNA testing is currently under way.

University of Melbourne’s Group Leader School of BioSciences senior research associate Trent Perry said he was thankful for the industry co-operation that had been crucial in providing the numerous fly samples from around Australia.

“We are very grateful to the many agronomists, growers, grower groups and personnel at AWI who all assisted in the advertisement of the collection and passing the word around and in the collection of many of the samples both in blowfly traps or from fly struck sheep that were critical for our project,” he said.

“We have already been able to identify significant differences in the blowfly populations of Tasmania and WA to those in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and with the additional samples from all states this season, but in particular we were able to fill in gaps in SA, Queensland and central and northern NSW, and now should be able to confirm how distinct the blowfly populations around sheep properties in southern Queensland are from other regions.

“Thanks to the many maggot samples sent in by growers, we will also have a significant dataset to examine whether there are particular genetic variants in blowfly populations that are more likely to strike sheep in comparison to the wider blowfly population.”

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