Young Researcher Recognised for Contribution to Feline Infectious Disease Research

A researcher from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences has been awarded the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases (ABCD) & Merial Young Scientist Award 2015 for her contribution to feline infectious disease research.

Dr Emily Porter, a research associate in the Vet School’s Infection and Immunology research group, received the award for her work on the genetics of feline coronaviruses (FCoV) and the complex interactions between the virus and the feline host during the development of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a systemic disease that is a frequent cause of death in young cats.

Emily was presented with her award at the congress of the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), held between 1st-5th July in Porto, Portugal.

The European ABCD & Merial Young Scientist Award recognises innovative and outstanding work by promising young professionals in the field of feline infectious diseases or immunology.

Emily’s research, supervised by Professor Stuart Siddell, Dr Séverine Tasker and Dr Chris Helps and funded by the Petplan Charitable Trust, focused on a comparison of the genomic sequences of FCoVs in cats with and without FIP.

Emily’s analysis showed that viruses shed in the faeces of healthy cats and those in the tissues of cats with FIP were genetically closely related but a small number of mutations distinguished the virulent from the avirulent forms.

Additionally, Emily found that viral sequence mutations reported to be associated with FIP virulence were actually associated with systemic infection of the virus rather than FIP per se. These studies have laid the foundation for the development of a robust reverse genetics system that can be applied to field strains of FCoV and, in the longer term, genetically modified recombinant FCoVs as candidate vaccine strains.

Dr Porter, commenting on the ABCD & Merial Award, said: “I’m honoured to receive this award for my work and that of the Feline Coronavirus Group here in Bristol, and am grateful to Merial and the ABCD for inviting me to the ISFM conference.”

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