920070. Group of Animal Health and Zoonoses (SALUVET)

Department of Animal Health
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

“Animal Health and Zoonoses” (SALUVET) is a research group formed by Academics and Researchers interested in the fields of Animal and Public Health under the One Health concept. We are mainly focused on the study of transmissible diseases in livestock, 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, 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), and food safety (toxoplasmosis). The group is also collaborating in studies on infection by SARS-Cov-2 in the animal compartment. 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). Our group is also committed to innovation on public and animal health through our spin-off SALUVET-Innova. Contacts with relevant research groups in this area and different branches of the Animal Health sector are established throughout different projects, including some financed by the NIH and USDA (USA) and Horizon 2020 (EU).

SALUVET facilities are located at the Animal Health Department (2,544 m2) from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (FVM) at UCM. Our facilities include 7 laboratories fully equipped for serological, molecular and cellular biology techniques, and some other shared spaces: cold room, dark room, autoclave room, seminar room and Animal Facilities approved for GMO works. Office spaces (8 rooms) are adjacent to laboratories, all allocated on the same floor of the main building. SALUVET has also access to facilities and services from the UCM Research Support Centers (Cytometry and Fluorescence Microscopy, Genomics and Proteomics, Mass Spectrometry) and the Clinical Veterinary Hospital, including the Pathology and Diagnostic Service (with two large necropsy rooms, a Histopathology Laboratory and a Pathology Diagnostic Room), the Clinical Pathology Service (for large and companion animals), and the Animal facilities (for both laboratory and large animals).

The diseases caused by apicomplexan parasites, which include the genera Toxoplasma, Neospora and Besnoitia, amongst others, cause significant production losses in livestock. In addition, toxoplasmosis is a relevant zoonosis in the EU and worldwide. The proposal developed by the grant candidate should be drafted under the aforementioned umbrella. The general goal of SALUVET’s research lines is to apply innovative technologies (-omics, genome editing, ex vivo models) to explore host-pathogen interactions in some of the most relevant diseases caused by coccidian parasites in livestock. We hypothesize that the application of these technologies in a transversal approach can potentially unravel some of the molecular mechanisms underlying host-pathogen interactions. Three different but complementary approaches are pursued: i) exploitation of –omics technologies to (a) comparatively dissect processes involved in the adaptation of apicomplexan parasitesto their host, allowing them to actively replicate and disseminate, and (b) to understand parasite-host cell interactions in host target cells; ii) use of genome edition techniques to define the role of potential virulence factors that could define the host-pathogen interactions during infection; and iii) establishment and harmonization of relevant in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo disease models for studying experimental infections. The results obtained will advance the understanding of the mechanisms by which these relevant apicomplexan parasites interact with the host, which, in turn, will help in the design of transmission-blocking vaccines or drugs. This will have a positive impact on farm animal welfare, economic profitability of animal production, and exposure to harmful parasites, ultimately improving human health.