University of Surrey Institute of Advanced Studies

University of Surrey

From animals to humans: a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of zoonotic diseases

21 May 2009 - 22 May 2009

Workshop Report

Zoonotic diseases (infections that are transmitted from animals to humans) threaten our health, food safety and livestock industry and also have global consequences impacting trade, economics and security. The increasing importance of zoonotic diseases makes multi-disciplinary studies at the interface between human and veterinary medicine extremely important. The aim of the workshop was to bring together researchers from the University of Surrey, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Institute for Animal Health (IAH) with an interest in combining the areas of human and animal health, to develop an integrated approach to the study of zoonotic diseases and to explore ideas for strategic development of veterinary/public health education

The workshop was held on May 21-22 at the University. In total there were 42 attendees from the four participating institutions and this meeting was an important step in the establishment of the global partnership network between the University of Surrey and NCSU as it was the first time that a group of scientists from NSCU had visited the University to begin to forge such critical international collaborations.

John Hay and Lisa Roberts (University) opened the workshop by giving an overview of the aims and of the Faculty of Health and Medical Science's research strategy and organisation, particularly focusing on infectious disease research with the Division of Microbial Sciences. Prema Arasu (NCSU) then gave an overview of the research structure within NCSU and the work on zoonotic diseases. Paul Britton (IAH) then chaired a session of talks from external speakers, the theme of which was public health in the UK and the control of zoonoses. The first external speaker was Dominic Mellor (Glasgow Vet School) who talked about veterinary public health in the UK and whether it was a marriage made in heaven or in hell. He concluded that veterinary public health is a complex area encompassing veterinary epidemiology, surveillance and basic research. John Threlfall (Health Protection Agency, UK) gave the second talk, providing an overview of antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella and the importance of surveillance with regard to new and emerging pathotypes. Chris Thorns (VLA) then gave an overview of the VLA and its role in research into zoonoses and how the VLA contributes to controlling zoonotic infections.

The second session chaired by Lisa Roberts (University) focused on viral zoonotic infections. Ian Brown (VLA) gave an overview of the current situation with regard to global avian influenza and also discussed implications of the current H1N1 pandemic. Nicholas Johnson (VLA) talked about European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV2) and its characterisation and epidemiology in the UK within bat populations. Paul Britton (IAH) focused on the origin of SARS coronavirus and the identification of several novel SAR-like viruses in wild animal species which have the potential to cross the species barrier. The last talk in this session was given by John McCauley (MRC National Institute for Medical Research) provided a timely update on the initial spread of the H1N1 influenza virus to the UK.

Jeremy Dale (University) chaired the session on bacterial zoonoses. Simon Park (University) provided an overview of nitric oxide sensing and detoxification in Campylobacter and its role in pathogenesis. Mark Stevens (IAH) gave an overview of the molecular mechanisms of Salmonella and E. coli pathogenesis in food-producing animals, providing specific examples of techniques used in this area of research. Adrian Whatmore (VLA) gave an overview of Brucellosis as a zoonosis and the role of the VLA as a National Reference Laboratory. He described how recent technological advances are being exploited to develop new tools for typing/diagnosis. Pete Kaiser (IAH) presented work on mechanisms of immune resistance in poultry to colonisation with bacterial zoonotic pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. He talked about the use of microarray studies and whole genome SNP arrays in this work, highlighting the exploitation of the chicken genome sequence in this work. The final talk in this session was given by Martin Vordermeier (VLA) on development of cattle vaccines against bovine TB and methods to differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated cattle.

On the second day the plenary talk was given by Katharina Stärk from the Royal Veterinary College (University of London), chaired by Roberto La Ragione (VLA/University). She gave an overview of the challenges in the assessment and management of current and future zoonotic risks on a global scale. Martin Shirley (IAH) summarised the research carried out by the IAH, highlighting specific examples such as blue tongue virus and foot and mouth disease virus. Otto Windl (VLA) spoke about prion diseases in farm animals and the challenges faced for diagnosis and control. He also described the importance of understanding the genetic basis of susceptibility to various forms of ruminant transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Gregg Dean (NCSU) provided an overview of the research in zoonotic diseases at NCSU, which spans bacteria, viruses and parasites, epidemiology and vaccine development. The next session was themed around systems biology approaches to the study of infectious diseases. Andrzej Kierzek (University) presented his work on the development of computer simulations of molecular interaction networks and how these have been used in the generation of an in silico model of the TB bacillus. Martin Woodward (VLA) described the work of the department for food and environmental safety at the VLA and the use of genetic and phenotypic technologies to characterise new and emerging zoonotic pathogens. Colin Smith (University) provided an overview of functional genomics, specifically high throughput sequencing which can be used for the detection and quantification of the respective transcriptomes of infectious agents and their hosts. Johnjoe McFadden (University) described the metabolic model of the TB bacillus and the interactive web-based model that can be used to predict phenotype and identify new drug targets.

The final session provided by Lisa Roberts (University) and Gerry Luginbuhl (NCSU) focused on overviews of the new Veterinary Bioscience programme at the University and veterinary bioscience/veterinary medicine teaching at NCSU, respectively. The workshop then explored possible educational links in this area between the University and NCSU.

The meeting resulted in a number of specific actions to follow up, both in research collaborations and in creation of educational links in veterinary bioscience between the University and NSCU. These included:

  • Exploring research opportunities in probiotics and vaccine delivery.
  • Collaborative opportunities in IVOC Ussing chamber technology.
  • Salmonella systems biology approach. Arrange cross-institution video conference to discuss ASAP.
  • Investigating opportunities for cross-institutional facilities and collaboration on functional genomics, proteomics and systems biology.
  • High-throughput sequencing facilities - IAH, Surrey, VLA and NCSU - large collaborative bid.
  • Facilitate discussions on how metagenomic tools can be utilised to study the gut flora dynamics in order to predict health status and risk of disease.
  • Prokaryotic and eukaryotic Biolog high-throughput metabolic screening.
  • Collaboration with NCSU on flow-FISH technology.
  • Exploring opportunities for the development of fixed vocabulary systems for host-pathogen interactions research.
  • Investigating opportunities for VBS students to undertake professional training year (PTY) at NCSU.
  • Investigating possible opportunities for undergraduate & graduate students from NCSU to visit UoS for study exchange and vice versa.
  • Linking VBS animal nutrition module with NCSU.
  • Linking VBS course with NCSU poultry undergraduate course.
  • Linking VBS with IAH poultry health course at IAH.
  • Exploring possibilities of shared online exercises for VBS and NCSU undergraduates.
  • Exploring opportunities for VBS student PTY in research triangle adjacent to NCSU.

The workshop committee was Lisa Roberts (Surrey), Jeremy Dale (Surrey), Roberto La Ragione (VLA/Surrey), Paul Britton (IAH) and Prem Arasu (NCSU).


Dr Lisa Roberts

19 August, 2009