Her group concentrates on African swine fever and lumpy skin disease, two viral diseases which have severe impacts across the globe on the welfare of livestock and the people that rely on them for income and food.
African swine fever (ASF) is a deadly pig disease that usually circulates in Africa, but which has recently moved across Europe and Asia. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease, which means control methods are limited to quarantine measures and culling procedures. In 2018, over 380,000 cases of ASF were reported to the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), and over 710,000 pigs and boar either died from the disease or were culled.
Lumpy skin disease (LSD) infects cattle and water buffalo, causing fever, weight loss and distinct nodules (“lumps”) to form on their skin. Traditionally the disease has been found in Africa but in the past eight years has spread through the Middle East and into eastern Europe and Russia.
The group’s aim is to understand how both these viruses cause disease in their host, and apply this knowledge to the development of novel tools that can be used to help control the viruses and prevent them from spreading further afield. Find out from Dr Beard how they are doing this in the video below.
As the head of the DEFEND consortium, Dr Beard leads a worldwide network of scientists working together to tackle the emergence of ASF and LSD. The DEFEND research programme targets a number of areas, including fundamental research to understand how the viruses work, how they interact with host animal immune systems and developing new diagnostics.
You can learn more about the DEFEND consortium on their website.