Quest for new liver fluke vaccine

The livestock industry faces serious economic losses as disease parasite develops resistance to existing drugs.

Terry-SpithillLa Trobe University Professor of Agricultural Science Terry Spithill will lead a just-funded quarter of a million dollar research project to develop a new vaccine against liver fluke disease.

The Australian Research Council supported project is being carried out in collaboration with the specialist animal health company Virbac (Australia) Pty Ltd.

The research is aligned with one of La Trobe University’s new Research Focus Areas (RFAs) Securing Food, Water and the Environment.

Liver fluke is a parasite that is endemic, mainly in sheep and cattle pastures in south-eastern Australia.

It also affects pigs, goats, alpacas and deer, as well as humans who live in fluke-infested areas.

It costs more than $3 billion globally per year in lost production, stock deaths, as well as treatment costs and prevention.

Professor Spithill is also co-Director of AgriBio, Victoria’s new $288 million Centre for AgrioBioscience, which opened recently on La Trobe University’s Melbourne Campus at Bundoora.

He says the liver fluke parasite is developing resistance to drugs currently used to fight the disease. 

‘This represents a substantial threat to our ability to control the parasite, with a consequent impact on economic productivity in rural communities.’

Using cutting-edge technologies, Professor Spithill and his team will target a complex of the parasite’s proteins also known as ‘tegument proteins’ to try and develop the new vaccine.

The research team includes Dr Glenn Anderson and Dr Robert Dempster from  Virbac (Australia) Pty Ltd based in Sydney.

Professor Spithill
T: 03 9032 7428 or 0488 138768


Ernest Raetz
Media and Communications
T: 041 226 1919

More details about La Trobe University’s new ARC grants can be read online.