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Objectives of the project

The project brings together a multi-disciplinary group of experts to study the pathogenesis, immunology and epidemiology of tropical theileriosis and to provide training for scientists in countries affected by the disease. The broad aims of the project are:

  • To combine basic and applied research to develop more effective methods for controlling the disease
  • To enhance the capability of research workers and veterinarians in endemic areas to determine the impact of the disease and apply locally available control measures
  • To strengthen the capacity of local institutions to undertake independent research on tick-borne diseases

To try and achieve these aims, it is necessary to combine a basic understanding of how the parasite is spread, how animals are able to become immune and how the parasite causes the disease. This is being investigated through a series of research themes which exploit the recently published genome sequence of the parasite:


Epidemiology

Epidemiology
Field studies are being focussed in two epidemiologically distinct countries, Tunisia and Turkey, where tropical theileriosis is recognised by veterinarians and livestock owners as one of the most important diseases affecting livestock production. While there is a significant body of data on the prevalence of the disease in endemic regions, choice of control methods is largely based on availability and cost. The project will collect a comprehensive and integrated epidemiological dataset in both countries and develop models of disease transmission. These models will be used to determine the impact of different control measures and to provide a rational basis for intervention.


Gene expression studies

Gene expression studies
Gene expression in Theileria annulata infected cells is being analysed using parasite and bovine microarrays. This will reveal which parasite molecules are responsible for the transformed phenotype of the infected leuckocyte and which genes are involved in modulating host cell proliferation during differentiation from the schizont to the merozoite stage. This study will also demonstrate whether attenuated cell lines exhibit a signature profile of gene expression and whether this can be used to identify vaccine lines in vitro. Additionally, it is being investigated whether a link exists between the attenuated phenotype, potential host virulence factors and immune stimulation.


Immunology

Immunology
Parasite proteins recognised by a protective bovine T cell response are being identified and the strain specificities of such responses are being dissected. Diversity of these antigens at the population level is being investigated together with the relative contributions of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell communities to conferring immunity. It is anticipated that this programme of research will lead to the identification of key antigens which may be incorporated in future sub-unit vaccines against tropical theileriosis.



The combination of the training and research activities of the project will translate into specific practical benefits at two levels:

Developing new tools for disease control

  • Developing an improved diagnostic tests for pen-side diagnosis
  • Developing a diagnostic test for buparvaquone-resistant parasites
  • Refining techniques to allow rapid selection of attenuated cell lines
  • Identifying novel schizont vaccine candidate antigens

Enhancing implementation of disease control policies

The project will lead to improved knowledge of the epidemiology of tropical theileriosis and the formulation of mathematical models for predicting the impact of disease control interventions. This will allow local institutions to optimise cost-effective, locally sustainable control programmes.

This collaborative project relies on the close partnership of nine research laboratories.