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The Probio-TICK initiative

Project start date: 15 December 2017
Project end date: 30 September 2020
Publication date: 26 October 2020
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle
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Ectoparasites (ticks and buffalo fly) are estimated to cause major economic loss exceeding $250m p.a. to profitable beef production in northern Australia. Management of these pests relies on the dual approach of chemical use and manipulating host genetics.

This project helped deliver Probio-TICK, a sustainable microbial probiotic against cattle ticks and buffalo fly for northern Australia. Probio-TICK is a novel concept that applies the well-accepted health benefits of human “inner-health” probiotics to the “outer-health” of cattle hides by boosting the animal’s innate resistance to pest invasion.  

The project achieved proof of concept of a completely novel means of external parasite control in cattle. The advantage of the Probio-TICK product is that it has no chemical residues and is safe to cattle, people and the environment. It has potential as an organic control agent for ticks and possibly other external parasites.


The main objectives of this project were to:

  • isolate and identify microbes known to produce metabolites that are active against cattle ectoparasites
  • apply those microbes to cattle in order to change the composition of their hide microbiome
  • demonstrate that microbes applied in this way can cause a reduction in ectoparasite numbers on northern cattle.

Key findings

  • The results of the study show that natural control of ticks on cattle using carefully selected and curated widespread soil microbes can aid in the control of cattle ticks.
  • The trial of an initial formulation showed that the product was safe and the proved the feasibility of topical application to cattle hides, as it demonstrated that the microbes were incorporated into the hide microbiome of cattle.
  • Probio-TICK use shows that there was delay in onset of effect (14 -20 days), suggesting that it takes time for microbes to migrate and establish at main tick sites.
  • It is hypothesized that the Probio-TICK microbe community interrupts the establishment of larval ticks and, possibly, nymphs on cattle, meaning that the effect is only seen 2 – 3 weeks after treatment.

Benefits to industry

The Probio-TICK initiative has provided proof-of-concept that a sustainable microbial probiotic can be developed that will provide protection against cattle ticks.

It is estimated that a commercial product would return $22m to producers, assuming an adoption rate of 15% measured against the tick vaccine benchmark of 90% protection for 1 year.

MLA action

A provisional patent was submitted in April 2020 to protect the Intellectual Property of the invention.

MLA has pledged in-kind support to a follow up application to the Cooperative Research Centre and support Microbial Screening Technologies to submit an MLA Donor Company (MDC) application for further work towards product registration.

Future research

Future research is based on the second phase of work to build the scientific and business case for Probio-TICK:

  • the supporting studies include an ‘establishment’ trial to determine the appropriate treatment interval and to help elucidate the mode of action
  • additional work will develop a good manufacturing practice (GMP) formulation of Probio-TICK for wider field testing and shelf life work
  • the business case is designed to position Probio-TICK as commercially attractive and will include establishing a defined product registration pathway with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
  • an adoption pathway supported by beef producer surveys will inform the market appetite which, together with the GMP scale up, will provide a commercial basis for investment by a third party.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Microbial Screening Technologies