Using immunology and resistant sheep to beat the fly


  • Ian Colditz
  • T. Mahony
  • R. Elkington


New methods for controlling blowfly strike will be needed when mulesing is phased out and the availability or efficacy of insecticides for control of fly strike decreases. The Australian Sheep Industry CRC has pursued two approaches for the development of new methods to help control blowfly strike. In the first, genetic resistance of sheep to survival and growth of blowfly larvae was examined. Resistance to growth of larvae was heritable (0.29 ± 0.22). The trait was not associated with resistance to internal parasites, nor was it influenced by wool characteristics such as fibre diameter or coefficient of variation of fibre diameter. This new trait differs from resistance to fly strike associated with resistance to fleece rot. Because measurement of the trait is labour intensive, gene markers or correlated measures are needed before it will be suitable for industry adoption. The second approach examined the impact of larval products on the immune system of the sheep. Larvae suppress the sheep immune system and thereby limit the ability of the sheep to reject the larvae. The immunosuppressive agent is being purified and strategies to abolish its activity are being explored. Abolition of immunosuppression would create opportunities for the development of new vaccines against blowfly strike.