New staff additions to AFBI’s US-Ireland bovine respiratory disease programme

AFBI STAFF RI Farm
n Professor Louise Cosby, Head of AFBI Virology Branch pictured with new research scientists in AFBI’s Mammalian Virology Unit, Dr Hannah Turkington and Dr Rachael Bell.

TWO post-doctoral research scient-ists, Drs Rachael Bell and Hannah Turkington, have recently joined AFBI’s Mammalian Virology Unit in Virology Branch. Their posts are funded by the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme.

Professor Louise Cosby, with colleagues in Virology and partners in other institutions, have obtained two of these highly prestigious and competitive grants with combined value of over $2 million. Each grant supports a collaboration between three laboratories, one in the US, one in Northern Ireland and one in the ROI.

Both grants are in partnership with Teagasc (Drs Sinead Waters and Bernadette Earley) and one with the University of Missouri (Professor Jerry Taylor) and the other with the USDA/ARS/US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska (Dr Tara McDaneld). AFBI, Teagasc and US laboratory work components are funded by DAERA, DAFM and the USDA, respectively.

Dr Rachael Bell joined AFBI in January 2020, previously having been at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she was awarded an MSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and then a PhD. During her MSc, Rachael worked on the development of gold-nanoparticle immuno-assays whilst her PhD focused on characterising the immune response of pulmonary human cells to E-cigarette use.

Dr Hannah Turkington joined AFBI more recently in June 2020. She received an MSc in Virology from the University of Glasgow and a PhD in Molecular Virology from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Her previous research focused on understanding the virus-host interactions of the newly identified bat influenza viruses, and their potential for crossing species barriers.

The project that Rachael is working on involves identifying the genes related to the immune response to infection by viruses involved in bovine respiratory disease (BRD). The data obtained also determines whether an animal is more susceptible or resistant to infection. It is hoped that this work will inform future breeding programmes as well as novel diagnostics and improved vaccine design.

Hannah’s work will be examining how the respiratory microbiome changes following initial virus infections in cattle.

Although it is known that animals become infected with a range of other viruses and bacteria following the initial virus infection, how this evolves is not currently understood.

This research should impact on how BRD is treated in the future, including reduction of antibiotic usage.

Rachael and Hannah’s combined expertise in Immunology and Molecular Virology is providing invaluable cross-disciplinary working on these projects and has established them as highly respected members of the larger Mammalian Virology team.

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