Veterinary parasitologists unite
Researchers active in veterinary parasitology are pooling their knowledge and research results in their own professional field. A symposium highlighting the many facets of the field was held to kick off the initiative.
Parasites cause various diseases, and some of these have a major impact on livestock farming. The various research institutes and scientific centres involved in this field of study together represent a great deal of knowledge about these diseases. The veterinary parasitologists of the Netherlands and Flanders are currently strengthening their ties to prevent further fragmentation of their combined knowledge, expertise and research. A symposium in Wageningen marked the start of this initiative to pool and share knowledge. “During the symposium, we learned what research is being conducted and by whom,” Heather Graham, research associate at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) in Lelystad, says. The programme also offered ample opportunities for networking. “It is easier to keep in touch if you know who is doing what and have already spoken to each other,” Graham observes.
The initiators aim to bundle knowledge on parasites in the Netherlands. A parallel project is working to optimise knowledge sharing within Wageningen University & Research. To this end, Adriaan Antonis and Heather Graham sought contact with Professor Geert Smant and Associate Professor Dr Arjen Schots, both of whom work in the Department of Nematology. Although this department is part of the Plant Sciences group, the partnership also offers a great deal of added value for veterinary parasitology, says Antonis. “The Nematology department is working on vaccines for cattle and sheep based on glycoproteins obtained from a parasitic worm that is replicated in plants. They are cooperating on this research with the universities of Leiden and Ghent and a veterinary pharmaceutical company.”
The kick-off of the renewed partnership between experts in the field of parasitology was taken on 18 May during a symposium organised by WUR’s Nematology chair group in cooperation with the Veterinary Parasitologists project group (WVP). The symposium was attended by parasitologists from WUR, LUMC, RIVM, the universities of Utrecht and Ghent and the WVP. The meeting focused, among other things, on Microbiome & Metagenomics, Diagnostics, Epidemiology/Modelling and Vaccine Development. “There is a great desire to share knowledge,” Professor Smant says.
When he was appointed in 2020, Smant set himself the goal of putting the field of parasitology more emphatically on the map. “Collaboration with colleagues active on the veterinary side of the field also helps to gain more recognition for parasitology," Smant says.
An Animal Parasitology research group has now been formed under the Nematology chair group. This group cooperates with the Veterinary Parasitology group in Ghent and the Parasitology department of the LUMC in Leiden. The cooperation focuses on vaccine development, and work is also underway at WUR to broaden parasitology research.
WBVR is taking steps to strengthen its ties with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University. “During the symposium, it became clear that WBVR faces the same challenges as other institutes in the field of parasitological diagnostics, for example in the area of validation. We have already scheduled a follow-up meeting to discuss this further,” reports Graham. “We are committed to jointly initiating parasitological research,” Antonis adds. “For example, we are thinking of studying gastrointestinal worms and liver fluke together.”