Page 73 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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 AVIAN RESPIRATORY PATHOGENS
While the poultry industry in South Africa is the single largest contributor to the agricultural sector, the impact of disease on production remains significant. Avian influenza and Newcastle disease are highly infectious and are the most important threats to poultry production, but there
are many other pathogens that also cause significant problems.
 Professor Celia Abolnik holds the Research Chair
in Poultry Health and Production in the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at UP. Her research is aimed
at advancing knowledge on poultry diseases, specifically the avian respiratory pathogens. In addition to Avian influenza and Newcastle disease, the focus has been on infectious bronchitis and mycoplasmosis. She notes that on a practical level, the research being undertaken translates into more sensitive, cost-effective, automatable and rapid diagnostic assays, as well as better vaccines and epidemiological data. From an academic perspective, the knowledge generated on mechanisms of
disease and pathogenesis, viral evolution, and the understanding of host responses and interactions between co-infecting pathogens, produces work of a high international standard.
In 2016, the research team completed two large clinical trials on the infectious bronchitis virus for an international vaccine producer, and released the first complete annotated genome for the poultry pathogen Mycoplasma pullorum. A molecular study of H6N2 influenza was published in Virology.
In South Africa, Professor Abolnik works closely with the poultry industry, national veterinary laboratories,
the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and researchers at
several other universities. Internationally, the Chair’s network of collaborators includes institutions such as Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) in France, the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in the United States,
and the joint OIE/FAO (World Organisation for Animal Health/ Office International des Epizooties and the Food and Agriculture Organisation) international scientific network for the control of animal influenzas.
Since the Research Chair was established in August 2012, much has been achieved in advancing knowledge on poultry diseases. In addition to the research programme established and outputs produced, a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory was commissioned and completed, and a molecular research laboratory equipped. Professor Abolnik notes that problems with the diseases are by no means solved, and that there are many other issues that the poultry industry would want to
be researched, including Gumboro disease, salmonellosis and antibiotic resistance.
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