May 29, 2023


Roslin experts part of project to curb losses from major cattle pest




Experts from the Roslin Institute are part of a collaboration to mitigate the impact of Asian blue tick on herds around the world, the institute announced.


Researchers at Roslin are working with partners Oxitec to develop a method of managing the invasive Asian blue tick, Rhipicephalus microplus, which spreads diseases through biting cattle.


The partnership will initiate work to develop a self-limiting Asian blue tick, under Oxitec's proprietary Friendly™ platform, carrying a gene that prevents their offspring from growing to adulthood. This approach is designed to limit the population of the ticks in areas where the solution is deployed.


The initiative follows a feasibility study by Oxitec that validated the key methods for development of a modified tick and found that the Friendly™ tick approach is expected to provide a highly effective alternative to chemical pesticides.


The development project is funded by US$4.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will make use of the Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility at the Roslin Institute campus.


Researchers hope their efforts can mitigate the impact of the Asian blue tick, which can also affect other livestock such as buffalo, goats and horses. It is capable of spreading many diseases such as bovine babesiosis, and has the largest economic impact of any tick-borne cattle infection, with an estimated cost of US$3.2 billion each year in Brazil alone.


Conventional management uses chemical pesticides, to which the tick is widely resistant.


"Alternatives to current methods of managing the impact of the Asian blue tick are urgently needed," said Rolsin's Dr. Tim Connelley. "This research initiative holds promise for developing a solution to support cattle farmers and their livestock against this devastating pest."


We're looking forward to starting work on development of the world's most sustainable tick management solution," said Kelly Matzen, chief technology officer of Oxitec. "We're grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will enable us to – in collaboration with the globally respected Roslin Institute – start to build an urgently needed Friendly™ tick solution to support livestock farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond."


- Roslin Institute

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