Tackling the scourge of the tick-like poultry red mite (PRM) has been given a major boost with the sequencing of the parasite’s genome.
Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute led an international team of scientists in the work which they have made available to scientists to design new control methods.
The mite, which is thought to be present in more than 90% of egg production units, causes considerable distress to hens and costs the EU egg industry an annual 230 million euros (£207.8m).
Dr Alasdair Nisbet, who leads the red mite team at Moredun, said researchers had been limited by not knowing the intricacies of the parasite.
“That’s why we undertook the genome sequencing project to understand the nitty-gritty of what happens in the mite, what drives its physiological processes and what processes we could interfere with to control it,” he said.
“Vaccination will be one of the control methods in future, but no single thing will be a silver bullet.
“Other strategies will include biosecurity, appropriate treatments at the right time, nutrition and breeding.”