Current Other Research Projects

Chair Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety
Topical and cryoanaesthesia for livestock husbandry
What role does wildlife play in emergency disease? The case of the feral pig
Preparing for rabies: incursion pathways among free-ranging and domestic dogs
Longitudinal cohort study of horse owners


A new unit in Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety at the University of Sydney


Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Professor Richard Whittington

Summary
In 1999 the gross value of Australian livestock production was $13.4bn of which $11.5bn came from exports. The Australian economy and the rural sector depend on this trade, which is based on efficient production, marketing, quality assurance and access to major markets in the developed world. Most of these markets have a favourable status for the major epidemic diseases of livestock. Compared to many competitors, Australia enjoys privileged access due to the historical absence of important livestock diseases.
This project was undertaken because a critical shortage of the skills required by the livestock industries is looming. The loss of animal health laboratories, trained livestock health specialists, together with the loss of government employed district veterinary officers and epidemiologists, has dramatically weakened the national defences against disease incursions, threats to product integrity and market access.
The aim of this project was to establish a new teaching and research unit in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. Research and training programs in epidemiology, disease surveillance, pathobiology and food safety were developed and delivered to postgraduate and undergraduate students. A new post graduate degree program in Veterinary Public Health Management commenced. Ties were established with overseas universities to enable future development of joint teaching and research programs. Staff from the unit are active in the research community, in industry groups and the media, ensuring wide communication of research results. Staff work together with stakeholders in the livestock sector to promote the benefits of the research programs. This MLA project has led to immediate benefits for industry, and many of these will endure into the long term: undergraduate veterinary students are better equipped to enter rural veterinary practice; graduates working in animal health now have a flexible post graduate coursework program to learn skills in epidemiology and public health for immediate application; a steady stream of young post graduates is becoming available to fill retirement positions; young post doctoral fellows and PhD research students have greater opportunity to work on real world problems and provide service longer term to the livestock sector; significant critical mass now exists to conduct research on priority livestock health issues.

Source of Funding
Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Timeframe
January 2006 - January 2012


Topical and cryoanaesthesia for livestock husbandry


Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Student
Ms Sabrina Lomax

National Collaborators
Associate Professor Peter Wynn, Charles Sturt University
Dr Robert Cranna, Bayer Australia Limited
Dr Meredith Sheil, Animal Ethics Pty Limited

Summary
Painful husbandry procedures – tail –docking, castration, dehorning, ear-knotching, branding, and mulesing (sheep only) – are routinely conducted without analgesia in Australian livestock, resulting in acute pain and stress responses in millions of young animals each year. This is rapidly becoming a critical animal welfare issue, with important social, political and commercial ramifications. To date, practical and economic constraints have bee a barrier to the development of effective pain management strategies.

The aim of the project is to address this issue by investigating the use of topical and cryo-anaesthesia as an effective, practical and cost-effective analgesic option that can be used on-farm for large-scale production systems. Specific aims:

To develop a novel technique of achieving rapid pre-operative local tissue anaesthesia using cryo-anaesthesia with supercooled CO2 gas application to wooled or fur covered skin;

To investigate the impact of using (i) pre-operative cryo-anaesthesia and (ii) post-operative topically applied local anaesthetic applications, both alone and in combination, during those painful routine animal husbandry procedures on:
- pain prevention and alleviation, using an indicator of pain and stress that the CIs are developing (direct sensory testing), and conventional indicators such as beta endorphin and cortisol, and behavioural analysis of treated and untreated animals; and
- recovery indicators such as animal behaviour, blood loss, wound healing, and weight gain, including a powerful digital wound-mapping technique that the CIs are developing.

To develop a novel biochemical approach to measure acute adrenergic responses in lymphocytes isolated from animals subjected to the production procedures. This will be assessed by quantifying tyrosine phosphorylation of β2-adrenergic receptors in lymphocytes. It has been shown previously with pigs, this technique provides a measure for reliabity and indicating the magnitude of the acute response to stress.

Source of Funding
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Project Timeframe
January 2008 - December 2011


What role does wildlife play in emergency disease? The case of the feral pig ARC LP100200110


Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Brendan Cowled

National Collaborators
Dr Shawn Laffan, The University of New South Wales
Associate Professor Stephen Sarre, University of Canberra
Dr Andrew Woolnough, Department of Agriculture & Food, WA
Dr Graeme Garner, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Dr Ian Marsh, NSW Department of Industry & Investment, EMAI

Summary

This project is based on the feral pig, an introduced wildlife species. Wildlife populations have been responsible for many recent disease emergencies with economic and human health impacts, but our understanding limits management, prevention and preparedness.

This project will use feral pigs in northern Australia as a case study for characterising wildlife disease dynamics (using Salmonellosis) with a novel integration of population and epidemiological genetic approaches, demographics and simulation modelling. We will then address a problem of great importance to agriculture in Australia – the role of feral pigs in trans-boundary infectious disease transmission.

In collaboration with project partners, a framework (tools and methods) will be developed to assist understanding and management of wildlife disease and its impact on domestic livestock production, specifically:
- Quantify and describe endemic disease transmission in feral pigs and cattle in northern Australia;
- Forecast the potential role that feral pigs might play in exotic trans-boundary animal disease (eg Foot-and-Mouth disease and Classical Swine Fever) incursions;
- Define appropriate surveillance and mitigation strategies for managing trans-boundary disease incursions involving feral pigs and other wildlife populations.

By achieving these aims, a core biosecurity objective of the partners will be addressed: preparedness for emergency disease events. Achievement of these aims will also result in a conceptual leap forward in our understanding of wildlife disease epidemiology, thus improving the management of many endemic wildlife diseases of importance for the partners.

Source of Funding
Australian Research Council Linkage Grant
Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Cattle Disease Contingency Fund Pty Limited

Project Timeframe
July 2010 – June 2013


Preparing for rabies: incursion pathways among free-ranging and domestic dogs


FA&VPH Staff
Professor Michael Ward
Dr Salome Durr

National Collaborator
Dr Peter Fleming, Principal Research Scientist
Invasive Species Branch, Biosecurity NSW
NSW Department of Primary Industries

Summary
The main focus of the project is to determine contact rates between different segments of the dog population of tropical and eastern Australia, with the development of models for rabies establishment and spread, and the intention to feed this information into rabies control policy. For this exercise work will be focussed across the north of Australia. While models have been developed to understand ecology of various mammals, none have been really valuable for rabies control. One of the principle problems with such models is that the contact rates that they depend on, and which are usually estimated from data of healthy animals, do not apply well to animals once they develop clinical rabies.

Determination of contact parameters would not be highly valuable for rabies control. Instead, the focus will be on movement of domestic dogs by humans and dog census information. In most dog populations around the world, dog rabies moves principally by transportation of dogs by humans, and this is likely to be the case in Australia.

It will be valuable to ascertain population sizes and demographic parameters (eg age structure) of the various dog population segments. This data would indicate potential vulnerabilities to population and rabies control efforts. Data will be collected to validate extrapolation methods for calculating owned dog population sizes (such as human:dog ratios) that allow relatively easy estimation of dog population sizes based on human census data. Also, analyses of potential control points for non-owned dogs, by dart-vaccination or oral vaccination, and relative cost-efficacy analyses, eg vaccination versus dog removal, could be useful. These data could be collected partially by well-designed owner interviewer surveys for owned dogs, and by standard wildlife methods for wild dogs and dingoes.


Source of Funding
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Wildlife Exotic Disease Preparedness Program Funding 2012 - 13

Project Timeframe
July 2013 – December 2015


Longitudinal cohort study of horse owners RIRDC PRJ-008198


Farm Animal Health Staff
Dr Navneet Dhand
Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio
Dr Kate Sawford

Collaborators
Dr Melanie Taylor*, University of Western Sydney
Dr Nina Kung and Dr Hume Field, Queensland Centre
for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity Queensland
Dr Barbara Moloney and Therese Wright,
NSW Department of Primary Industries
* Lead Investigator

Summary
The project will provide a flexible and responsive research methodology for the study of factors influencing Hendra virus (HeV) risk awareness and the uptake of risk mitigation practices by horse owners to prevent transmission. The research will involve the recruitment of a large and inclusive cohort of horse owners from across all industry sectors that will be followed over a two year period and will address a number of areas.

The project will provide both a research platform and a resource to track the dynamic nature of horse owner risk awareness, mitigation practices, and the effectiveness and reach of government agency-directed communication and guidance in the context of an evolving and uncertain threat.

Horse owners from across all industry sectors will be recruited to form a cohort of at least 2400, with a minimum two thirds from Queensland and New South Wales. Horse owners outside current HeV risk areas will be included, as a reference group and to provide research flexibility should future outbreaks occur outside current risk regions. The project will use online/internet based data collection and communication methods. This provides significant benefits in cost effectiveness, speed and efficiency of data management, tracking of non-responses and there is no upper limit on cohort membership. Additionally, 500 participants without internet access will take part via postal methods. Advanced statistical analyses will evaluate relationships between HeV risk perceptions and risk mitigation practices, and identify factors influencing changes in perception and practice over time.

Source of Funding
Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation

Project Timeframe
May 2012 – May 2015