This group has a long history of research into viral diseases of domestic animals. Many of the projects focused on the development of innovative immunodiagnostics that were then applied to studies of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of viral infections of economically important animals.
A spinoff company TropBio was formed in the late 1980s and it is still active today.
Source of emerging diseases - Recently the trend has been to focus on the development of molecular diagnostics. This has facilitated the development of a range of projects that are providing fascinating challenges for our students.
The bioinformatics and assay design skills are being used in collaborative projects with other groups within JCU to include studies on marine turtle herpes virus infections, respiratory diseases associated with HIV in developing countries and bacterial diseases associated with food processing.
Viral Diseases in companion animals: Feline immunodeficiency virus
A model for HIV. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a lentivirus producing a disease very similar to HIV in humans. This virus has probably been present in domestic cats for some time and there is a diverse group of biotypes. This presents substantial challenges for the development of comprehensive diagnostics. The first recognition of canine parvovirus was by staff at JCU who noted the similarity of this disease to that produced by feline panleucopaenia virus. This virus has continued to evolve and despite the use of what should be a very effective vaccine the disease continues to infect pups producing severe diarrhoea that can be fatal.
Viral diseases in aquatic wildlife – Aquatic wildlife are the source of viral genes for Influenza A viruses. Molecular monitoring of Australian wildlife has demonstrated almost all 16 known haemagglutinin types. There are complex patterns of distribution with endemic viruses that have changed very little for at least 40 years and this is overlayed with frequent introductions of viruses from migratory birds that travel vast distances.