Pathology and infectious diseases research

The Department of Pathology and Infectious Diseases brings together a multidisciplinary team of veterinary surgeons, microbiologist, pathologists and immunologists to understand host pathogen interactions in animals and humans.

What we are researching

Our focus is on understanding pathogen behaviour in the host and environment, with a focus on new and emerging and zoonotic diseases including Rabies, Prions, Campylobacter, E. coli, Brachyspira, Bluetongue, Classical Swine Fever, PRRS, Schmallenberg, MRSA and TB.

The research interests of the department extend to understanding how pathogens are transmitted and controlled including, environmental survival, vector biology, wildlife reservoirs and biofilms in intensive farming units and processing plants. The close proximity and shared post with the AHVLA and the Pirbright Institute provide excellent collaborative opportunities for interdisciplinary research.

The response of the immune system to pathogen challenge and how it can be modulated to help control infectious diseases is an important area of research in our department.  In particular we are interested in the molecular dissection of the immune response to viral infections to better inform vaccine design. The role of the normal flora in modulating responses to pathogen challenge is also an area of interest with a number of projects exploring the metagenome of animals and humans in health and disease.

Pathogen evolution and understanding the molecular basis of pathogenesis is also a focus and the department works closely with the bioinformatics and genetics groups. The department also has a strong focus on antimicrobial resistance including the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and how it influences pathogen fitness and the development of novel control strategies including vaccines and probiotics.

Close links with our veterinary partners and the Royal Surrey County hospital have also facilitate research projects to understand the pathogenesis of diabetes, neoplastic disease and neurological diseases in animals and humans.


The Neuropathobiology group focuses on investigating the underlying molecular events that lead to the so-called protein misfolding diseases in animals and humans, including Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, Alzheimers and prion diseases. The Neuropathobiology group brings together academics with various expertise in the areas of Comparative Neuroscience, Neuroimmunology, Clinical Neurology and Neuropathology.

Host-pathogen interactions

Microbes and their hosts live together in complex and dynamic relationships that can benefit or harm either party. Pathogenic microbes may arise that invade and manipulate host cells and systems to their advantage. In reply, hosts deploy defence mechanisms orchestrated by their immune system to counteract pathogens and this in turn usually results in pathogens developing ways to evade immune responses. We conduct studies to understand this constantly changing arms-race between host and pathogen to discover how we may intervene to enhance protection of the host.

Food-borne pathogens

Foodborne illness refers to any illness resulting from the consumption of food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites, as well as chemical or natural toxins. Foodborne diseases are a serious and global problem. The WHO estimates that worldwide foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases taken together kill about 2.2 million people annually. In the UK alone, it is estimated that each year around a million people suffer a foodborne illness, with around 20,000 of these individuals receiving hospital treatment.

Emerging pathogens

‘Emerging pathogens’ are bugs that can break new ground; either jumping from one species to another or invading new populations. This can be game changing- kick starting disease outbreaks with devastating consequences. Some have their biggest impact in domestic animals, such as the recently emerged Schmallenberg virus which has caused significant economic and welfare impact.

Disease intervention

Disease intervention brings together a multitude of disciplines and skills with the common objective of reducing, preventing or eliminating disease. In the context of pathogenesis and infectious disease, we are focussed on improving our understanding of the host and the pathogen and how they interact in order to develop and apply intervention tools and strategies. Such tools can be many, varied and complementary. For instance, vaccination seeks to manipulate the host immune response to either resist infection or to fight it better.

Comparative pathobiology

Diseases in animals and humans have remarkable similarities as well as differences in their aetiology and pathogenesis. Comparative pathobiology aims to understand these processes and today the use of modern technologies enables deeper insight than ever before in this rapidly developing field of study. The economic and social impacts of disease can be great; through comparative pathobiology innovations in disease diagnosis, treatment and control can mutually benefit both humans and veterinary species.

Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobials are used in human and veterinary medicine and they are important tools for the treatment of infections. However, the emergence of widespread antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is threatening our ability to treat and control even the most simple of infections. AMR is the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic or other compound. AMR can be driven through selective pressures such as the inappropriate use of antimicrobials and can be transferred from one pathogen to another through the exchange of genetic material.