Genetic resistance to infections in sheep

S. C. Bishop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper considers genetic resistance to infectious disease in sheep, with appropriate comparison with goats, and explores how such variation may be used to assist in disease control. Many studies have attempted to quantify the extent to which host animals differ genetically in their resistance to infection or in the disease side-effects of infection, using either recorded animal pedigrees or information from genetic markers to quantify the genetic variation. Across all livestock species, whenever studies are sufficiently well powered, then genetic variation in disease resistance is usually seen and such evidence is presented here for three infections or diseases of importance to sheep, namely mastitis, foot rot and scrapie. A further class of diseases of importance in most small ruminant production systems, gastrointestinal nematode infections, is outside the scope of this review. Existence of genetic variation implies the opportunity, at least in principle, to select animals for increased resistance, with such selection ideally used as part of an integrated control strategy. For each of the diseases under consideration, evidence for genetic variation is presented, the role of selection as an aid to disease control is outlined and possible side effects of selection in terms of effects in performance, effects on resistance to other diseases and potential parasite/pathogen coevolution risks are considered. In all cases, the conclusion is drawn that selection should work and it should be beneficial, with the main challenge being to define cost effective selection protocols that are attractive to sheep farmers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-7
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Foot rot
  • Mastitis
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Scrapie


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