One Health – Veterinary Community

One Health

To view our full archive of news stories and articles, please log in or register for an account.


Study reveales further insights into animal origin of COVID-19

Study reveales further insights into animal origin of COVID-19

Researchers identify coronaviruses in pangolins and bats that are genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2.

New clues about the potential animal origin of COVID-19 have been unveiled in a new study led by researchers at the Roslin Institute and Aberystwyth University.

Writing in the journal MDPI Viruses, scientists suggest that an ancestor of the virus was once present in both pangolins and bats before reaching people. 

While the results add to previous support for this idea, more work is needed to identify the animal coronavirus that first infected humans, researchers said.
Several high-impact coronavirus variants in pangolins and bats identified by the study could also aid further vaccine design and treatments. 

Dr Barbara Shih from the Roslin Institute explains: “After examining all publicly available coronavirus genomes for bats and pangolins, we noted a handful of bat coronaviruses and all seven pangolin coronaviruses to be very similar to SARS-CoV-2. 

“Our study emphasises the need for further analyses of coronaviruses from suspected animal species. Bridging this knowledge gap may help us better understand the process that enables the virus to infect humans.”

In the study, scientists used a novel hybrid computational approach to compare coronaviruses affecting bats and pangolins to the virus causing COVID-19 in humans (SARS-CoV-2).  Their work highlights genes that are specific to coronaviruses affecting each species, as well as parts of genes that are commonly seen in coronaviruses affecting bats and pangolins. 

Lead author Nicholas Dimonaco, a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, said: “This work has shown that there are types of coronaviruses found in both pangolins and bats which are genetically more similar to the human SARS-CoV-2 virus than to other viruses from the same hosts.”New clues about the potential animal origin of COVID-19 have been unveiled in a new study led by researchers at the Roslin Institute and Aberystwyth University.

Writing in the journal MDPI Viruses, scientists suggest that an ancestor of the virus was once present in both pangolins and bats before reaching people. 

While the discovery adds to the previous support for this theory, more work is needed to identify the animal coronavirus that first infected humans, researchers said. 

Several high-impact coronavirus variants in pangolins and bats identified by the study could also aid further vaccine design and treatment. 

Dr Barbara Shih from the Roslin Institute explains: “After examining all publicly available coronavirus genomes for bats and pangolins, we noted a handful of bat coronaviruses and all seven pangolin coronaviruses to be very similar to SARS-CoV-2. 

“Our study emphasises the need for further analyses of coronaviruses from suspected animal species. Bridging this knowledge gap may help us better understand the process that enables the virus to infect humans.”

In the study, scientists used a novel hybrid computational approach to compare coronaviruses affecting bats and pangolins to the virus causing COVID-19 in humans (SARS-CoV-2).  Their work highlights genes that are specific to coronaviruses affecting each species, as well as parts of genes that are commonly seen in coronaviruses affecting bats and pangolins. 

Lead author Nicholas Dimonaco, a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, said: “This work has shown that there are types of coronaviruses found in both pangolins and bats which are genetically more similar to the human SARS-CoV-2 virus than to other viruses from the same hosts.”

Pirbright to support national Track and Trace programme

Pirbright to support national Track and Trace programme

Scientists will play a key role in diagnostics training at the BSPS Lighthouse Laboratory.

The Pirbright Institute has announced it is to support the national NHS Test and Trace Programme by providing induction and training for staff joining the new Lighthouse Laboratory in Bracknell.

Operated by NHS Berkshire and Surrey Pathology Services (BSPS), the Lighthouse Laboratory is being established to test COVID-19 samples as part of the UK's efforts to tackle the coronavirus. 

To support the service, scientists at The Pirbright Institute will play a key role in diagnostics training, teaching newly-recruited staff how to use the state-of-the-art diagnostics equipment located at its Surrey campus. The induction programme will include sample management and bio-safety followed by a period of training in scientific diagnostic procedures. 

“We are extremely proud to offer our diagnostic expertise for training the Lighthouse Laboratory's new staff to the highest possible standard,” commented Pirbright's director, Professor Bryan Charleston. “The accommodation of the new training programme at Pirbright has happened at record speed, requiring our staff to adapt rapidly to ensure both the equipment and training protocols are ready to receive the first recruits for training.”

The Pirbright Institute is home to several Reference Laboratories in highly infectious viral livestock diseases, including African swine fever (ASF) and foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD). The Institute also has significant expertise in surveillance and diagnostics, particularly concerning disease outbreaks. 

The Institute will provide ongoing training to the Lighthouse Laboratory during 2021. It will also be offering up a number of its experienced scientists in secondment to the new facility to assist with high throughput diagnostics.

Novel approach to amoebic gill disease in salmon could benefit humans

Novel approach to amoebic gill disease in salmon could benefit humans

Scientists to repurpose drugs used to treat human parasitic diseases.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are developing a novel approach to the treatment of amoebic gill disease that could drive down the cost of drugs currently used to treat parasitic diseases in humans.

Caused by the parasite Neoparamoeba perurans, amoebic gill disease (AGD) is major disease of farmed Atrlantic salmon, resulting in severe economic losses across the world. The parasite causes proliferative gill disease, with symptoms including increased mucus on the gills, swollen tissue and breathing difficulties.

In the study, scientists propose to repurpose drugs used to treat human parasitic diseases, such as sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, to manage AGD in Atlantic salmon.

Using the University's 'drug discovery pipeline', researchers propose to test the potency of these drugs against Neoparamoeba perurans. The team will then test a candidate drug for activity against ADG in Atlantic salmon at a marine trial site in Ireland.

Researchers hope that by opening new markets for these drugs, it will drive down the cost of parasitic treatment in humans, particularly in the developing world where unaffordable healthcare can lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.

Study co-author Dr Martin Llewellyn, said: “This project is a great opportunity to understand some of the science behind symbiosis, develop a much-needed drug for salmon aquaculture and also hopefully have a beneficial impact on the treatment of diseases that impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the tropics.”

Funded by the BBSRC, the project will involve a collaboration with the Marine Institute, Ireland and Dalhousie University, Canada.

UK One Health Coordination Group names new chair

UK One Health Coordination Group names new chair

Helen Ballantyne RVN selected for her experience in animal and human health sectors.

Multi-disciplined human and animal health nurse Helen Ballantyne has been named as the new chair of the UK One Health Coordination Group (UKOHCG) for 2020/2021.

The One Health Coordination Group comprises specialists from across the UK veterinary, environmental and human healthcare sectors. Its 2019 report One Health in Action included initiatives from the Wildlife Trusts, the Royal College of Nursing, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, the BVA, RCVS Mind Matters and the National Trust.

Helen Ballantyne was selected as chair of the UKOHCG for her experience in both the animal and human healthcare professions. The group will work together to promote UK 'One Health' initiatives which seek to attain optimal health for animals, people, and the environment.

“I feel deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to chair this passionate and forward-thinking group of people as we share One Health knowledge and disseminate examples of effective collaborative initiatives,” said Helen.

“The UKOHCG meetings are always so exciting. As the agenda evolves very often new ideas, new links and new contacts are made; it’s One Health happening in real-time. The group is made up of passionate and motivated individuals who are representing large networks; for example, the National Trust, the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association are all members.’’

After graduating with a Pharmacology degree in 2002 and qualifying as an RVN in 2005, Helen went on to work as a locum nurse, working nationally and internationally gathering experience in referral medicine and surgery, charity practice, emergency nursing and exotics. She also spent five years on BVNA council, which culminated in her receiving honorary membership.

Helen currently works as a clinical nurse specialist for Living Kidney Donation where she supports living kidney donors through the process of donation and organises kidney transplant surgeries. As part of this role, she also manages the logistics of matching, retrieving and transplanting abdominal organs from deceased donors.

“Helen is an ideal candidate to take the chair of the UKOHCG, she is a fabulous advocate and inspiration for veterinary nurses and is an active member of the BVNA,” commented BVNA President, Jo Oakden. “One health is even more significant in the present climate; veterinary nurses are ideally placed to be actively involved in One Health, and with Helen at the helm more will be inspired to think about what can be achieved with One Health.”

Helen takes over the responsibility as chair from BVA's former president and vet, Simon Doherty.

RVC awarded funding to conduct COVID-19 research

RVC awarded funding to conduct COVID-19 research

Project to identify ways of reducing transmission in traditional food markets.

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has received £749,735 of funding to contribute to the global effort on COVID-19 research.

Awarded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the money will support a collaborative project which seeks to reduce COVID-19 transmission in traditional food markets in Bolivia and Peru.

Javier Guitian, a professor of veterinary public health at the RVC, explains: “Bolivia and Peru have been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The more vulnerable sectors of the society have been affected, not only by the pandemic itself but also by control measures such as school closures, strict lockdowns and collapse of health care services, which disproportionately affected those with fewer resources who largely rely on the informal economy and lack a safety net.”

In the project, researchers will co-design bespoke plans to reduce transmission of the virus in Sacaba, Bolivia and Huancayo, Peru, and will also share their experience and online resources to help facilitate similar efforts in other countries. Contributing researchers comprise the RVC, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and Universidad Mayor de San Simon.

Eloy Gonzales-Gustavson, an assistant professor at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and researcher at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, said: “During the quarantine in Peru, markets were the focus of transmission and the government did not know how to establish response strategies, resulting in one of the highest rates of infection and mortality.

“With this project, we hope to develop new and innovative strategies that would help address another outbreak of COVID-19 as well as future epidemics, and to establish this with the help of the local market sellers and scientists from the UK, Peru and Bolivia.”

Image (C) Christine Leyns.

Social science-led projects receive funding to combat infectious disease

Social science-led projects receive funding to combat infectious disease

Research programme seeks new perspectives on human and animal health challenges

A total of £170,000 has been awarded to six projects which aim to combat infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across the world through a cross-disciplinary approach.

The funding has been awarded by The Bloomsbury SET – a £5 million translational research programme lead by The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and funded by Research England.

The intention of the programme is to encourage innovative scientific and technical solutions to help protect global human and animal health. The most recent funding call hopes to bring new perspectives on this matter by using a cross-disciplinary approach, focusing on the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The six collaborative projects that will receive funding are:

  • ‘Knowledge exchange through a Bedouin lens: a photovoice exploration of camel owner perceptions of zoonotic disease risk’ – led by Dr Jackie Cardwell
  • ‘Enhancing political economy research skills to tackle infectious disease and AMR challenges’ – led by Dr Mehroosh Tak
  • ‘Assessing social acceptability and economic impact of centralized antibiotic usage data collection for GB cattle farms’ – led by Dr Mehroosh Tak
  • ‘Tackling antimicrobial resistance in rivers: a design-based policy approach’ – led by Dr Naomi Bull
  • ‘Contextualizing antimicrobial resistance perspectives in Sri Lanka and European Union’ – led by Dr Risa Morimoto
  • ‘Visual arts and localised evidence and decision-making’ – led by Dr Polly Savage

Dr Ray Kent, director of research administration at the RVC, said: “The six funded projects represent an exciting opportunity to investigate social and cultural aspects of infectious disease and AMR, which can so easily be overlooked in our rush to identify and implement technology-based solutions.

“We trust that in combination, these studies will lead to genuine insights into how co-designing solutions with local people can reduce costs and encourage shared ownership of challenges in low-resource settings, leading to better outcomes for disease prevention and control.”

For more information on the programme or the funded projects, please click here.

Image (c) Peter Holloway (RVC).

RVC study offers hope for osteoporosis sufferers

RVC study offers hope for osteoporosis sufferers

Researchers present NaQuinate treatment found to prevent bone loss.

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have highlighted a promising new treatment for people living with skeletal disorders.

Scientists say the treatment - NaQuinate - presented today (11 September) at the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), could be used to manage osteoporosis, a debilitating condition that affects more than three million people in the UK.

NaQuinate is a naturally occurring metabolite of vitamin K. Previous studies have shown that it can protect against the loss in bone quality that occurs in ovariectomy in mouse and rat models.

In this new study, NaQuinate was also shown to significantly synergise with mechanical loading in targeted regions of cortical bone. The treatment is currently in Phase I clinical trials to establish its safety and efficacy as a treatment for post-menopausal women with osteoporosis.

Professor Andrew Pitsillides, Professor of Skeletal Dynamics at the RVC, said: “There are three main ways to maintain bone quality and strength to resist fracture: stop bone loss, build mass and enhance the topographical changes to optimise and enhance weight-bearing roles. It may be that NaQuinate can achieve a balance of all three to treat osteoporosis and better maintain healthy ageing.”

An estimated 500,000 people are hospitalised every year for broken bones owing to osteoporosis. The condition causes a significant social and economic burden, with breaks often leading to a downward spiral of disability, loss of independence and increased mortality.

Prof Pitsillides added: “At the RVC we recognise the importance of a collaborative ‘One Health’ approach which operates at the cutting edge of veterinary and human medicine, and this research could pave the way for a novel treatment for this common and debilitating condition.”

The study was developed in collaboration between the Skeletal Biology group at the RVC and biotechnology company Haoma Medica.

BSAVA publishes Q&A about babesiosis

BSAVA publishes Q&A about babesiosis

Information follows the recent report of a case of babesiosis in a human.

The BSAVA has published a Q&A on ticks and babesiosis following the recent diagnosis of human babesiosis in England for the first time.

Written for veterinary professionals to pass on to their clients, the information explains what ticks are, how to find and safely remove them, and what babesiosis is.

“Following the recent report of a case of babesiosis in humans, we advise dog owners to be vigilant for ticks on their pets, to protect both their own and their pet’s health,” commented BSAVA president, Professor Ian Ramsey. “Pet owners should check their pets regularly for ticks, especially after a walk, and seek advice from their vet if needed.”

The BSAVA has also written and published a scientific information sheet focusing on Babesia Canis, which is free to download from the BSAVA Library.

The Q&As are as follows:

What are ticks?

Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of the animal that they attach to. Adult ticks have a head, body and four pairs of legs. Ticks can be quite small when they first attach to an animal but become engorged as they feed – they are about the size of a pea when full! There are a number of different species of tick, but not all are found in the UK.

How would my pet get a tick?
Ticks are commonly found in areas such as pasture and woodland, though they can also be found in parks and urban areas. Hungry ticks will wait on grass or leaves in the environment before attaching themselves to a passing animal using their mouthparts.

Can ticks spread disease to animals and people?
Yes, ticks spread disease in their saliva when they feed on an animal’s blood. Ticks are capable of spreading a number of disease to both animals and humans, though the diseases spread by ticks differ depending on the region of the world in which they found.

In the UK, ticks are known to spread Lyme disease. Both dogs and humans are known to be affected by Lyme disease, but it is rarely diagnosed in cats.
There have been cases of ticks spreading diseases to animals and people that are not commonly found in the UK, including babesiosis.

What is babesiosis and can it affect animals and people?
Babesiosis is a disease that can be transmitted to animals and people by ticks commonly found in Europe. Babesiosis causes a sudden breakdown of the red blood cells leading to anaemia. Dogs are more commonly affected than cats. People can also be affected.

The symptoms of disease in animals can vary widely. Some animals may show no symptoms at all. Other animals may be weak and not want to eat. In some cases, the disease can be fatal.

Most people with babesiosis show either no symptoms or very mild symptoms of infection. People with weakened immune systems may become very ill and show flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle ache, fatigue and jaundice.
In the UK, babesiosis is typically seen in dogs returning from travel to Europe but in recent years, there have been reports of babesiosis in UK dogs that have no history of travel to Europe.

Can animals transmit the disease to humans?
There have been some reports of people developing babesiosis after being bitten by an infected dog.

How can I prevent my pet from getting babesiosis and other diseases?
It is important to prevent your dog from getting bitten by a tick. The best way to do this is to avoid areas where ticks are likely to be found, such as pastures and woodland. Ticks are particularly active during the spring and autumn, though they can be active all year round.

You should ensure that you check your pets for ticks every day – for dogs, it is advised to check them after a walk. If travelling abroad with your pet, you should check them for ticks thoroughly just before returning to the UK, and again on the point of return. Some countries have ticks that we do not normally find in the UK and can spread nasty diseases such as babesiosis.

You should also consider using a tick control product on a regular basis which can be applied to your pet in spot-on, collar or tablet form. It is recommended that you discuss this with your local vet who will be able to advise which product would be best suited to your pet based on your location and lifestyle. Always check the label of any product that you are using carefully, and never use a treatment designed for dogs on a cat as this could be fatal to the cat.

What do I do if my pet gets a tick?
The quicker you are able to remove a tick, the less chance it will have to pass disease on to your pet. The best way to remove ticks is to use a ‘tick remover’ tool, which is sold in many vet practices and pet shops.

When removing ticks, take care to ensure that the whole of the tick is removed from your pet. If using a tick removing tool, make sure that you twist and never pull – this will help to prevent leaving the head of the tick in your pet. You should also make sure that you don’t squeeze the tick’s body as this may cause the tick to expel some blood, which could increase the risk of the tick transmitting disease to your pet.

Once removed, ticks can be sent to Public Health England’s (PHE) Tick Surveillance Scheme (TSS) which aims to inform the assessment of the public health impact of ticks in the UK.

Can humans get bitten by ticks?
Humans can get bitten by ticks, so it is important to check yourself over when you get back from the dog walk! Further information about preventing tick bites – and diseases spread by ticks – is available on the Public Health England and NHS websites.

First case of tick-borne babesiosis confirmed in England

First case of tick-borne babesiosis confirmed in England

PHE calls on people to take precautions to avoid being bitten by ticks. 

People are being urged to be 'tick aware' when enjoying green spaces this summer after a case of Babesiosis was confirmed in England for the first time.

Public Health England (PHE) stressed that the risk of infection of babesiosis 'remains very low', and that cases of the disease in the UK are rare.

Babesiosis is caused by a tiny parasite called babesia that infects and destroys red blood cells. A similar paraste, Babesia canis, had previously been identified in dogs.

PHE also confirmed a second 'probable' case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Both patients are receiving care in hospital.

Dr Katherine Russell, consultant in the emerging infections and zoonoses team at PHE, said: “It is important to emphasise that cases of babesiosis and TBE in England are rare and the risk of being infected remains very low. Lyme disease remains the most common tick-borne infection in England.

“Ticks are most active between spring and autumn, so it is sensible to take some precautions to avoid being bitten when enjoying the outdoors. Seek medical advice if you start to feel unwell after a tick bite.”

PHE has been surveying sites in Devon close to where the person with babesiosis lives, collecting and testing hundreds of ticks. However, all tested negative for the parasite which causes babesiosis.

Health officials have also tested deer blood samples from Hampshire in areas near to where the person with probable TBE lives, which have shown evidence of likely TBE virus infection. This matches similar results found in 2019.

Animal susceptibility to coronavirus study gets funding boost

Animal susceptibility to coronavirus study gets funding boost

Research could pave the way to a greater understanding of COVID-19.

A grant worth almost £200,00 has been awarded to researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) to examine companion animal susceptibility to coronavirus infections.

The funds, awarded by UK Research and Innovation, could lead to a greater understanding of why certain people are more susceptible to COVID-19, and may also identify new treatment targets.

Led by Professor Lucy Davison, the MASCOT (Mapping Animal Susceptibility to Coronavirus: Outcomes and Transcriptomics) project will examine two common veterinary coronaviruses: Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRCoV) in dogs, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in cats.

Both viruses share similarities with the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning that studying these naturally-occurring infections in pets could provide new insights into coronavirus biology.

“At the moment, we do not know precisely why certain individuals are more susceptible to COVID-19, and whether this difference in susceptibility has a genetic basis,” explained Professor Davison. “This project will seek to address this gap in our knowledge by studying genetic susceptibility to the common coronaviruses that are treated by veterinary clinicians and, in doing so, pave the way for a greater overall understanding of COVID-19.”

Along with researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester, the RVC will study genetic susceptibility to CRCoV and FIP to understand which genes are involved in severe outcomes after naturally occurring coronavirus infections.

“We look forward to working with colleagues at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester to improve our understanding of how to predict or treat severe coronavirus-associated conditions,” Professor Davison added. “We hope to make an important contribution to addressing the many challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

UKRI is the national funding agency which invests public money in science and research in the UK. Earlier this year, the organisation called for new research that could deliver a significant contribution to the understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic.

 UC Davis names director of One Health Institute

UC Davis names director of One Health Institute

Dr Michael Ziccardi to lead the OHI into its next phase. 

Wildlife vet and epidemiologist Dr Michael Ziccardi has been appointed executive director of the One Health Institute (OHI) at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr Ziccardi will serve a five-year-term through to July 2025, leading the OHI in its mission to solve complex problems impacting health and conservation such as zoonotic disease emergence, food insecurity and biodiversity loss.

The largest research centre in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the OHI has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, providing legislative guidance in the U.S. as well as laboratory support and workforce training in some of the least resourced regions of the world.

Commenting on his appointment, Dr Ziccardi said: “This new leadership opportunity is truly an honour. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, society has experienced first-hand the key importance of pursuing large-scale issues with a One Health focus, as well as the amazing expertise and cutting-edge science that OHI staff and faculty continues to bring to the problem.

“I look forward to helping keep the OHI at the forefront of critical global health issues, and also exploring how we can better use our skills to address other societal problems.”

Dr Ziccardi holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine, a master’s degree in preventive veterinary medicine and a PhD in epidemiology. As a Professor of Clinical Wildlife Health in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology, Ziccardi also teaches globally on wildlife health and conservation.

Dr Ziccardi maintains an active research program investigating emergency response involving animals in crisis and the One Health effects of petroleum in the environment. He currently serves as Chair of the NOAA Working Group for Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events as well as the industry-funded Global Oiled Wildlife Response System.

Jonna Mazet, founding executive director of the One Health Institute, commented: “I enthusiastically welcome Dr Michael Ziccardi as the OHI’s new leader. I anticipate great success as he leads the OHI into its next phase, pursuing a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable future for humanity and the planet.” 

Image (C) UC Davis.

Pigs useful for testing influenza antibody treatment, study finds

Pigs useful for testing influenza antibody treatment, study finds

Researchers discover human antibody that can neutralise H1N1 swine flu strain.

A human antibody has been proven to protect pigs against the strain of influenza that caused the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

The finding by researchers at The Pirbright Institute suggests that the antibody could be effective at treating human influenza infections. It also shows that pigs are a useful model for testing influenza antibody treatments.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the study is published in the Journal of Immunology.

“We are very excited that the pig model is useful for testing and refining antibody treatments for life-threatening influenza infections,” commented Dr Elma Tchilian, head of the Mucosal Immunology Group at Pirbright. “I hope that research into many other infectious diseases will also benefit from this model.”

Given their success in treating viruses such as Ebola, the use of antibodies to protect against influenza is of great interest to scientists. But while several influenza antibodies have progressed to clinical trials, the outcome in humans has been disappointing.

The latest study found that the 2-12C human antibody can neutralise the H1N1 2009 flu pandemic virus in pigs, and therefore provide protection. Both the amount of virus and signs of infection in the lungs were reduced in pigs that received treatment.

The success of this study in pigs suggests that antibody therapies have the potential to work in humans. It builds on previous research by Pirbright, which showed that pigs are good models for influenza vaccine studies.

SRUC vets to support COVID-19 testing

SRUC vets to support COVID-19 testing

Moredun-SRUC team is the first major veterinary unit to support NHS labs.

Veterinary staff at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) are lending a helping hand to the NHS by testing samples of COVID-19.

The team are working with colleagues at the Moredun Research Institute to assist with the testing, in high-containment facilities that are normally used to research livestock diseases.

By repurposing laboratory space and equipment, the team says that it hopes to help NHS colleagues by providing capacity for around 1,000 tests a day.

“We are delighted to join forces with Moredun to bring our collective expertise and diagnostics capacity to support NHS Scotland,” said SRUC principal and chief executive, Professor Wayne Powell. “This is a ‘team Scotland’ approach and demonstrates our willingness to share facilities, innovate and adapt our working practices to deliver a public good in the national interest.”

In recent weeks, the combined Moredun-SRUC team has been working closely with NHS Lothian to ensure that testing will be carried out to NHS standards, fully integrated into NHS systems, with training and support provided by NHS clinical staff.

It is the first major veterinary unit to support NHS labs to help with COVID-19 testing in the UK, demonstrating the benefits of a One Health approach. The team have developed working methods to ensure that their vital veterinary surveillance work will continue.

“I am delighted to see this example of One Health in action,” commented Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland. “This combined effort between the world class team at Moredun and SRUC has shown how vets and medics can work together to support the NHS and combat this pandemic."

Manuscript calls for collaborative approach to drug development

Manuscript calls for collaborative approach to drug development

Manuscript will further new initiatives to expand awareness of comparative oncology.

A new WSAVA-supported manuscript has highlighted the value of collaboration between the human and animal pharmaceutical and biotech sectors in drug development.

The manuscript follows a workshop on comparative oncology, hosted by the WSAVA's One Health Committee (WSAVA OHC) at its 2019 World Congress in Toronto. The workshop was led by researchers in human and animal medicine and was attended by academics and industry representatives working in cancer research.

Many cancers that afflict dogs also occur in humans, giving researchers the chance to improve lives by studying cancers and treatments in parallel. Delegates at the workshop included other members of the WSAVA OHC, academics and industry representatives working in cancer research.

In the manuscript, researchers outline new commercial perspectives on the value of closer relationships between the human and animal health pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, to deliver a ‘win/win’ for successful cancer drug development in humans and dogs.

Manuscript author Dr Chand Khanna, from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology), commented: “We hope our recommendations will reposition comparative oncology canine trials as integral and parallel to human development and that this move will create opportunities for step-wise iteration and the improvements in the human cancer drug development path that are increasingly necessary.”

Dr Michael Lappin, chair of WSAVA One Health Committee, added: “The field of comparative oncology as part of cancer drug development stands out as a successful example of the One Health approach to medicine and this new manuscript presents a nuanced and novel strategy to deliver this translational opportunity.”

The authors and the WSAVA OHC plan to use the manuscript as a springboard for further new initiatives to expand awareness of comparative oncology. They also hope to drive forward its use to create a closer alignment of human and animal health pharma and biotech.

The manuscript, entitled ‘Delivering innovation to oncology drug development through cancer drug DISCO (Development Incentive Strategy using comparative oncology): Perspectives, gaps and solutions’, is published in the journal Annals of Medicine and Clinical Oncology

Novel equine ECG technique gives hope for better stroke prevention in humans

Novel equine ECG technique gives hope for better stroke prevention in humans

Method allows for the rapid detection of atrial fibrillation in horses. 

Researchers at the University of Surrey have discovered a new electrocardiogram (ECG) technique that can quickly detect a difficult-to-diagnose-condition in horses, that is also a major cause of stroke in humans.

Writing in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers describe the technique, which can rapidly diagnose paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF), a condition that causes rapid, erratic heartbeats.

Owing to the intermittent nature of the condition, PAF is tricky to diagnose and can impact a race horse's performance. In some cases, the condition can be fatal.

In humans, this abnormal heart rhythm can disrupt the blood flow in the upper two chambers of the heart, leading to the formation of blood clots. Such clots may then block blood vessels elsewhere in the body, including the brain, resulting in cognitive decline and stroke.

In the study, Dr Kamalan Jeevaratnam and his team obtain EGG recordings from healthy horses and those diagnosed with PAF. ECG traces with no other electrical disturbances were converted to a string of computational numbers using a range of detection algorithms.

The researchers found that ECG results recorded at rest, and processed by the novel detection method, were significantly different between horses with and without PAF. This allowed for the identification of horses with PAF from sinus-rhythm ECGs with high accuracy.

Scientists say that it is vital that PAF is identified in good time for treatment to be effective. Normal heart rhythm could be restored by electrical stimulation or antiarrhythmic drugs. Anti-coagulation drugs might prevent the formation of blood clots preventing strokes or greatly reduce their consequences.

“I am very happy to see that in horses we obtained such excellent results and came up with a tool which could be easily used even by a non-professional,” commented lead author of the study, Dr Vadim Alexeeno. “It was also very exciting to devise the new approach of ECG parsing, which is absolutely essential for high sensitivity and specificity of our method”.

Dr Jeevaratnam added: “The fascinating aspect of this study is that we are looking at the arrhythmia which typically is provoked by high heart rate, but we diagnose it looking at low heart rate recordings.

“There is no need to exercise the horse and the analysis could be done in minutes, using low power computers. As a clinician, I think such analysis will greatly facilitate detection of this arrhythmia and it will promote the use of ECG by my colleagues.”

Dr Jeevaratnam is in discussion with several other UK and US groups to further this research into human studies, while at the same time exploring the notion of partnering with device companies in the equine industry.


Cannabidiol improves symptoms of canine arthritis, study finds

Cannabidiol improves symptoms of canine arthritis, study finds

Scientists measure the effect of CBD in dogs diagnosed with the condition. 

Scientists in the United States have discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) can significantly improve the lives of dogs diagnosed with arthritis.

The researchers, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, say their results could pave the way to studying the effects of CBD in humans.

In the study, the scientists first measured the effect of CBD on immune responses associated with arthritis, both in human and murine cells grown in the lab and mouse models. They found that that CBD treatment resulted in reduced production of both inflammatory molecules and immune cells linked to arthritis.

Next, the researchers found that in dogs diagnosed with the condition, CBD treatment significantly improved quality of life as documented by both owner and veterinary assessments. Scientists say their work, published in the journal PAIN, supports future scientific evaluation of CBD for human arthritis.

“We found encouraging results,” said Dr Matthew Halpert, research faculty in the department of pathology and immunology at Baylor. “Nine of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped. We did not detect alterations in the blood markers we measured, suggesting that, under the conditions of our study, the treatment seems to be safe.”

Arthritis affects one in five dogs, and its prevalence increases as a dog ages, according to Canine Arthritis Management.

Twenty dogs from the Sunset Animal Hospital in Houston were employed for the study. The dogs' owners were given medicine bottles at random, containing either CBD, liposomal CBD, or a placebo. Neither the owner nor the vet knew which treatment each dog was receiving.

The dogs received the treatment each day for four weeks. The vet and the dogs' owners noted the condition of the dogs and whether they noticed any changes in their animal's level of pain, such as changes related to running or gait. The dogs' blood cell count, liver and kidney function were also evaluated before and after treatment.

“We studied dogs because experimental evidence shows that spontaneous models of arthritis, particularly in domesticated canine models, are more appropriate for assessing human arthritis pain treatments than other animal models," said Halpert. "The biological characteristics of arthritis in dogs closely resemble those of the human condition."