New Staff additions to AFBI's US-Ireland Bovine Respiratory Disease Programme

Date published: 30 September 2020

Area of Expertise:

Two post-doctoral research scientists, 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 >$2million. 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 TEASGASC (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, TEASGASC and US laboratory work components are funded by DAERA, DAFM and the USDA, respectively.

Dr Louise Cosby, Head of Virology Branch, AFBI VSD pictured with Dr Rachel Bell and Dr Hannah Turkington
Dr Louise Cosby, Head of Virology Branch, AFBI VSD pictured with Dr Rachel Bell and Dr Hannah Turkington
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 characterizing 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 repected members of the larger Mammalian Virology team.   

Notes to editors: 

AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA delivering research and development, diagnostic and analytical testing, emergency response capability and expert scientific advice for DAERA and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland, and further afield.

AFBI’s Vision is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

AFBI’s core areas:

  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry;
  • Protecting animal, plant and human health;
  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment.

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