Monday, 26 August 2013

Protecting against parasites in the modern world

The world is becoming more and more connected, both physically and technologically. Prolific travel and trade within and between countries and continents allows disease-causing organisms like parasites to hitch a ride almost anywhere. Parasitic diseases can be devastating to the animals they infest, and to the people who rely on those animals for their livelihoods. ACIAR-supported research looks at ways to improve the identification and control parasitic diseases to help stop their spread.
Healthy livestock provide food and income opportunities

ACIAR supports research on significant parasitic diseases around the world, from bees to bovines. The research addresses diseases that spread from animals to people (zoonotic diseases), and diseases affecting trade and market access.  Some samples of our past and present research follow.

A diagnostic test was developed for a blood parasite (a trypanosome) that can cause a devastating wasting disease, surra, in a wide range of animals—including most livestock species. This work has improved disease surveillance and control options in Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines, and in turn reduced the risk of surra entering Australia (which is free from this disease).

Research in Papua New Guinea investigated potential economic effectsof parasitic Varroa mites, which can be deadly to honeybees—the most important pollinators of major crops. The modelling results provided useful information for making decisions about mite control strategies.
The deadly Varroa mite on a bee
(CC BY Agriculture Research Service)
In Indonesia, new ACIAR research is assessing the major diseases affecting marine fish aquaculture. Many of these diseases are caused by parasites. Developing improved diagnostic abilities and disease management capacity will lead to better disease control and increased productivity of Indonesian fish farms.
Floating research station in Indonesia
Research in Laos is exploring options to control a tapeworm (Taenia solium) that can cause cysts in people's brains, resulting in serious health effects including epileptic fits and even death. The results of the research may have application well beyond Laos because the disease occurs in many countries. 

This week (26-29 August) the 24th International Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) is being held in Perth, Western Australia. One of the keynote speakers is Dr Doug Gray, ACIAR’s manager for the Animal Health research program from 2008 to 2012. His future-focused presentation will be on 'Parasitology for the hungrier, warmer, riskier world of 2050.’ ACIAR is sponsoring a session on research it has developed and supported for parasite control and livestock production in South-East Asia.

The conference is being organised by the Australian Society for Parasitology, the International Commission on Trichinellosis, and the International Workshop on Arctic and Antarctic Parasitology (IWAAP) in partnership with ACIAR.

More information:

WAAVP conference web site

ACIAR projects:

AH/2000/009 Development of diagnostic and control methodologies for animal trypanosomiasis (Surra) in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia

AH/2008/037 Potential economic impacts of the Varroa bee mite on the pollination of major crops in Papua New Guinea

AH/2006/161 Management of pig associated zoonosis in the Lao PDR

FIS/2010/101 Improving fish health management and production protocols in marine finfish aquaculture in Indonesia and Australia
ACIAR's Animal Health program
ACIAR's Fisheries program

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