Group of Animal Health and Zoonoses (SALUVET)

Department of Animal Health
Facultad de Veterinaria

“Animal Health and Zoonoses” (SALUVET) is a research group based in the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and formed by Academics and Researchers interested in the fields of Animal and Public Health. We are mainly focused on the study of transmissible diseases affecting reproduction in ruminants and porcine, as well as some food-borne zoonoses. Current fields of our research include the study of host-pathogen interactions, determination of virulence factors, development of control tools such as vaccines and drugs, and validation and harmonization of in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models for relevant diseases from cattle (neosporosis, trichomonosis, besnoitiosis, genital campylobacteriosis), sheep (toxoplasmosis) and swine (PRRS, toxoplasmosis). The members of SALUVET participate in teaching and training activities from undergraduate (Veterinary Medicine Degree, Food Science and Technology Degree), postgraduate (Master in Animal Production and Health, Master in Virology) and Doctorate programs (PhD in Veterinary Sciences) from the Complutense University of Madrid. Our group is also committed to innovation on public and animal health through our spin-off SALUVET-Innova.

SALUVET facilities are located at the Animal Health Department (2,544 m2) from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (FVM) at UCM. The facilities consist of 7 laboratory spaces equipped for serology, molecular and cellular biology techniques and shared spaces: cold room, dark room, autoclave room and seminar room. Office spaces (8 rooms) are adjacent to laboratories and all laboratories and offices are on the same floor as the main building. SALUVET has also access to facilities and services from: i) the Research Support Centers from UCM, for example the Cytometry and Fluorescence Microscopy, Genomics and Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry; and ii) from CVH at FVM, including Pathology Service (with two large Necropsy rooms, a Histopathology Laboratory and one Pathology Diagnostic Room, the Clinical Pathology Service and Animal facilities for both laboratory and large animals.

Toxoplasma gondii is a major cause of abortion in humans and livestock, producing a significant public health hazard and economic losses, respectively. Most of Toxoplasma’s virulence factors have been explored using mouse models. However, the murine immune response differs significantly from that of humans and farm animals. Thus, despite Toxoplasma’s enormous economic and health implications, little is known about the parasite factors that cause fetal mortality and vertical transmission. The goal of this proposal is to close this gap in knowledge by studying the in vivo effect of specific Toxoplasma virulence factors in an animal model relevant for humans and livestock. We hypothesize that, by using an ovine pregnant model, the molecular mechanisms underlying early abortions can be identified. To this end we propose two aims. Firstly, we will characterize the mechanisms involved in the parasite-induced pathogenesis of early abortion in a pregnant sheep model of congenital toxoplasmosis. For that, the infection dynamics, clinical outcome, lesions, parasite burden and both local and peripheral immune response will be investigated. In our second aim, we will study, by using knockout strains, the role of two Toxoplasma effectors, TgGRA15 and TgWIP, in perinatal mortality, morbidity and vertical transmission. TgGRA15 is a well-known pro-inflammatory secreted factor and TgWIP has been recently described to be critical in the parasite’s dissemination. The results obtained will advance the understanding of the mechanisms by which Toxoplasma evade the immune response, which, in turn, will help in the design of transmission-blocking vaccines or drugs. This will have direct effects on farm animal welfare, economic savings and reduced exposure, ultimately improving human health.