The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
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Study seeks to examine genetic resilience to disease in Scotland’s deer population

Disease control in wild deer populations is a major challenge in wildlife management. With rising global temperatures and an increase of contact between wild and domesticated livestock, there can be an increased risk in the emergence of disease in wild populations.

A stag

Scottish red deer populations represent the largest continuous population of red deer in Europe, but the increase in their numbers might lead to a deterioration in body condition and consequently a higher risk for disease due to a reduced immune competence.

Studies carried out at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies are seeking to assess the genetic resilience of the deer population. The recent detection of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Northern Europe has increased concerns that this disease could also emerge in the UK, so improved understanding of the genetic resilience in wild populations is important for the effective management of the red deer. 

A recent study by the School’s Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona, in collaboration with the Moredun Research Institute, examined for the first time the genetic variation at the Major Compatibility Complex (MHC), an important group of genes involved in the immune response to pathogens, in Scottish red deer populations.

Recent funding from the British Deer Society awarded to Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona will focus on developing a rapid and cost-efficient protocol to genotype red deer at MHC genes. This new protocol will allow for wide-scale genotyping of red deer across the UK with the aim to feed into decisions on how best to manage the deer populations and combat any potential spread of CWD.

The recently funded research will also establish the first official nomenclature for MHC alleles that would conform to guidelines provided by the Comparative MHC Nomenclature Committee. This accurate catalogue of MHC allelic diversity is important in order to compare studies and management strategies of red deer populations in Europe.


Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona profile

Conservation Science


About the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

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We represent the largest concentration of animal science related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.