World Zoonoses Day: diseases that spread from animals to people
Investigating superbugs, flu, malaria, rabies and tuberculosis.
World Zoonoses Day celebrates the first vaccination against rabies – a zoonotic disease, or an infectious disease that can be spread between animals and people – which was successfully administered by Louis Pasteur on 6 July 1885.
To celebrate this achievement, we have put together some of the work on zoonoses conducted by researchers at the Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
Superbugs: genetics and food poisoning
Our scientists conduct research with a range of superbugs. They have shed light on how a major cause of human and animal disease, a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, can jump between species, by studying its genes. A number of superbugs are responsible for food poisoning and we work on investigating antibiotic resistance by Listeria, the survival of different types of Salmonella in cattle, as well as using machine learning to train computers to recognise the subset of Escherichia coli strains present in cattle that are a threat to human health.
Bird and swine flu
Our flu research covers several angles. It spans from identifying genes that are important in reducing infection by Influenza A virus in pigs and chickens, and genes that limit the spread of the virus to people, to understanding how flu spreads around the world, as well as producing gene-edited chicken cells that are resistant to bird flu. At the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, school pupils can become scientists for a day and learn how chickens are infected with the influenza virus.
Malaria and our blood cells
One of our teams is investigating whether our blood cells play a role in malaria, anaemia and invasive bacterial disease. Most malaria cases are asymptomatic, but can still have mild anaemia. The team has joined forces with the MRC Unit The Gambia to test immune function in Gambian children. Roslin Director Professor Eleanor Riley, who leads the team, was the first woman to receive the Ronald Ross medal by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in recognition of her work in malaria and contributions to strengthening research capacity in Africa. In the future, genetic modification of mosquitos may play a role in stopping the disease.
Rabies: an oral dog vaccine and an app
Pioneering work by the University of Edinburgh nearly 20 years ago established how rabies can be prevented in both humans and dogs through vaccination of dogs. However, many animals and humans still die each year from this brutal disease. Vaccines administered in dog food could help curb the spread of rabies in countries with large populations of stray dogs, our research suggests, which could help to vaccinate millions of street dogs around the world. Thanks to an app called 'Mission Rabies', data can be collected quickly and efficiently during normal dog rabies vaccination campaigns in Africa, Asia and South America. The successful app has reached more than 1.5 million data entries in 16 countries.
The first global Zoonotic TB roadmap
Zoonotic Tuberculosis (TB) is a form of tuberculosis which is often transmitted to people through contact with infected animals, mainly cattle, and consumption of infected products. It is not a new disease, but has long been neglected. A Roslin scientist helped to raise global awareness and contributed to the development of the first roadmap of Zoonotic TB, through his work with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **