My research focuses particularly on haemotropic mycoplasmas (haemoplasmas), a a newly defined group of pathogens that can induce haemolysis of red blood cells, and feline coronavirus infections, which can result in the fatal disease of feline infectious peritonitis.
Haemotropic mycoplasma infections
I am involved in the investigation of haemotropic mycoplasmas (haemoplasmas), which are bacterial agents that can induce haemolytic anaemia in a range of host species. Most of our studies centre on the feline haemoplasmas but we have carried out research on a range of haemoplasma species including canine, rodent and human species. Our research has focused on: the development of novel polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays and serological tests to detect haemoplasma infection, the phylogeny of haemoplasmas, the pathogenesis of the haemoplasma-associated anaemia and induced immunity, and genomic studies that have resulted in the first complete haemoplasma genomic sequence (Mycoplasma haemofelis). We are also developing in vitro methods of haemoplasma cultivation.
Feline coronavirus (FCoV) infections
Feline coronavirus (FCoV) infection is very common in cats and can sometimes lead to the serious disease of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which is an important cause of death in cats. The Bristol Feline Coronavirus (BFC) Group is actively committed to further research in this field to ultimately help the diagnosis and prevention of this distressing disease. Current research involves the development of reliable diagnostic tests for the definitive diagnosis of FIP, deriving genome sequences of field coronavirus isolates and the development of a so-called “reverse genetic” system for feline coronaviruses. The reverse genetic systemic involves constructing a copy of the virus in a form that can be changed in a specific way. This is a complex process but it will be of immense value in our basic research and, in the longer term, can be used to produce vaccines against FIP.