HL Deb 04 November 2003 vol 654 c103WA
The Countess of Mar

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Hayman on 16 February 2000 (WA 156), what progress is being made in the three-year programme of research into the understanding of the key elements for immunological control of sheep scab; whether they consider vaccination against sheep scab a viable proposition; and if so, when they consider that it will be introduced. [HL5057]

Lord Whitty

The sheep scab research projects to which the Countess refers ended in September of this year and the final reports are currently being compiled by the contractors. These projects have emphasised the complex nature of using a vaccine-based approach to control sheep scab. Nevertheless the data accrued are encouraging and have shown that both the lesion areas and numbers of scab mites are reduced following injection of extracts of scab mites. Furthermore, the effects can be enhanced by concentrating sub-fractions of the extract.

Accordingly the Government continue to be hopeful that it may be possible to vaccinate against sheep scab. However, the development of any vaccine is a lengthy process and to that end a new three-year programme of sheep scab research is currently being developed with a view to work commencing early in 2004. We would hope to have a clearer idea of when a sheep scab vaccine might become available towards the end of these new projects.

The sheep scab projects which began in spring 2000 have also found a fungus that will infect mites at the high skin temperature of the sheep, produced tentative evidence of mite growth hormones which may provide a key to their control and shown that anti-inflammatory drugs reduce sheep scab infection.

It is hoped that all of these investigations will continue once the new projects have been commissioned. The cost is likely to be in the order of £550,000 per year until December 2007.