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Sheep scab may help poultry

Sheep scab researchers at the Moredun institute may produce an answer to a major problem for the poultry industry.

Sheep scab is a highly contagious allergic dermatitis caused by a mite now widespread in the British national flock. Dr. John Huntley, at Moredun, is a specialist trying to develop a vaccine to eradicate it.

The poultry mite, feeding on the birds in the dark, hiding when it is light, cause anaemia, loss of eggs, feather loss and pecking disorders. Results indicate that control of the poultry mite, could be achieved much sooner than vaccine control of sheep scab. The red mite causes huge financial losses as well as frequent severe allergic reactions among staff and is becoming resistant to many chemicals now used.

Huntley and colleagues have found that the red poultry mite has much common with cattle ticks. He said: "There is a cattle tick vaccine, so that was a good place to start," he said. "We have also developed a technique to maintain red mites in the laboratory, feeding on a regular supply of fresh blood.

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