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Background to the disease
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Tropical Theileriosis represents a serious threat to cattle health in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, with some 240 million animals at risk. The condition is caused by the tick-borne protozoan parasite Theileria annulata, which infects bovine leukocytes and stimulates them to proliferate in a cancer-like manner.

Infection in calves is often fatal and in older cattle meat and milk production is reduced. Critically, highly productive European breeds of cattle are particularly susceptible to the disease and this currently prevents genetic improvement of livestock in endemic regions.

Cattle at risk of Tropical theileriosis

Theileria annulata - phalloidin staining
Infected cells visualised by phalloidin staining, courtesy Dr J. Kinnaird

Current methods to prevent and control tropical theileriosis are inadequate and therefore as part of the Animal Health in the Developing World Initiative, the Wellcome Trust is funding a project to develop novel and sustainable approaches to disease control. The project brings together a multi-disciplinary group of experts in the field to study the pathogenesis, immunology and epidemiology of the disease. Led by Professor Ivan Morrison at the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh and Professor Dirk Dobbelaere at the University of Bern, a consortium of laboratories from European countries and endemic regions are collaborating to achieve this goal. Together with research activities, the project aims to provide post-graduate training for scientists in endemic countries in order to facilitate the transfer of technology to these areas.

Background to the disease