The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies Bicentenary

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 i.e. an infectious disease that can be spread between animals and people - successfully administered by Louis Pasteur on 6th 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 hidden 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 over 1.5 million data entries in 16 countries.

The first ever 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 ever 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. **

Related links

Oral dog vaccine could help beat rabies

Gene study set to investigate how flu jumps species

Predicting the potential of E. coli transmission from cattle to humans

The first ever global Zoonotic TB roadmap

The bright future of genetic modification


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.

The School comprises:

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.