New £1m study to help combat Johne's disease

Johne's disease has a significant impact on the health and welfare of UK livestock
Johne's disease has a significant impact on the health and welfare of UK livestock

The ways in which bacteria cause a deadly gut infection in cows in the UK and worldwide will be the focus of a new £1m study.

Johne's disease, a common, chronic disease of the gut of cows and sheep, has a significant impact on livestock health and welfare.

The condition also leads to economic losses associated with reduced productivity and high mortality in the chronic stage.

JD is an insidious and increasing problem in the UK and worldwide, with no effective control measures in cattle other than test and slaughter.

The disease costs an estimated £9.8m each year to the dairy industry and £3.1m each year to the beef industry in the UK alone.

Now researchers from the Roslin Institute and Moredun Research Institute will inform the design of strategies to control and treat these infections.

At early stages following infection, animals show little evidence of the disease, making it difficult to detect and easy for infection to spread unnoticed.

This is partly because the bacterium - known as Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) - is able to hide from and manipulate the immune system.

A series of research experiments will provide insight into how MAP interacts with cells in the gut, how it survives and replicates.

The study brings together a team of researchers with expertise and established models of infection.

Scientists' aim is to determine key factors in the animals and the pathogen that control entry in the gut.

These factors could be targets of future intervention strategies to control Johne’s disease.

The £1 million study is funded by the UK government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.