Certain animals have an innate genetic resistance to disease, an international team of scientists has found, Olga Wojtas writes.
About 10 per cent of Africa's 170 million cattle belong to potentially resistant breeds, says Max Murray, a tropical diseases expert at Glasgow University veterinary school. Researchers have found that the N'dama cattle of West Africa, although smaller than imported breeds, are productive, able to survive in harsher conditions and resistant to disease.
Glasgow's team has won more than Pounds 15 million over the past decade for its work. They have been selecting animals for resistance to sleeping sickness and worms.
"Natural selection is the solution to the disease problem. We've identified certain markers that allow us to produce animals that are more resistant and if you're selecting for resistance you're also selecting for productivity," Professor Murray says.
The work will hopefully lead to better drugs or vaccines to enhance resistance.