Scheme: Industry Fellowship
Organisation: SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College
Dates: Jun 2007-May 2011
Summary: My research focuses on improving our understanding of the role of host genetics on the risk and prevalence of infectious disease in livestock populations, and on exploring whether genetic selection is a feasible possibility to combat infectious disease. For this purpose I develop mathematical models of host-pathogen interactions and of the spread of infectious agents in a population. The models integrate findings from genetic studies and combine these with relevant immunological and epidemiological aspects of the disease in consideration.
Much of my research focuses on the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), which is a high priority disease for pig production worldwide, causing devastating effects on animal health and welfare and performance. In collaboration with geneticists at the Roslin Institute and industry, I am currently developing models that address the following questions (i) What causes the decline in virus load at the early stage of infection? (ii) How does host genetics in susceptibility to PRRSV influence infection characteristics and how could this be exploited for controlling the disease? Model results (in combination with results of in-vitro studies) suggest that viral load decline could be caused by changes in the permissiveness of host target cells for the virus, and that these changes are influenced by the host genotype and the virus. The model results have implications for the development therapeutics, for the design of genomic studies, and in the long-term for the design of breeding programmes that aim to increase host resistance to infectious pathogens.