A field report from Leiden by Glasgow PhD student Eve Hanks, who was funded by a BSP International Training and Fieldwork Award.
The first year of my PhD has been focused on understanding the protective immunity conferred to sheep when vaccinated with Barbervax ® against the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus. Working at the University of Glasgow and in conjunction with Moredun Research Institute, it had become clear that the majority of antibodies generated following vaccination were anti-glycan antibodies. This led to my trip to Leiden to work at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) with Dr C.H. Hokke and his team to attempt to categorise the glycan content of Barbervax and determine the antigenicity of each component when incubated with sheep sera.
Leiden University Medical Centre
I found myself in a truly international office known as the aquarium. PhD students from several countries with similar interests were a great source of knowledge for me and new friendships were made. Most of the current glycan work has a human focus, I was the only veterinary researcher.
I was very fortunate to be able to make use of the new glycan array technologies developed at LUMC. This is the first time that the glycan content of the Barbervax has been analysed to this extent. Having the ability to extract glycans from the native vaccination preparation and probe these arrays with the sera from a wide range of vaccinated sheep from pen and field trials was really valuable. This allowed us to compare anti-glycan antibodies across a cross section of sheep at a set time point and also longitudinally comparing lambs, yearlings and ewes as they moved through the trials. These data will hopefully aid in the understanding of the effectiveness of Barbervax in the face of failure of recombinant protein vaccine attempts. Although further analysis is required, it has been a rewarding trip which has generated novel data specific to H. contortus and the Barbervax vaccination, and will form part of my thesis.
Having never visited The Netherlands before I made full use of my free time with trips to Amsterdam and The Hague. I travelled to Cologne to run in the half marathon race and visited Ghent and Antwerp also. During my time at LUMC I was lucky enough to be living by the sea and with unseasonable warm weather this was a perfect location.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the BSP for the travel award and to LUMC and all the staff and students who made this experience so rewarding and memorable.
Eve Hanks 16/10/16