Dr Andrew Broadbent’s research is focussed on birnaviruses, economically important viruses that have a large impact on aquaculture and poultry industries.
His group are currently investigating infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), which attacks the immune system of birds, resulting in sickness and a reduced immune response. This immunosuppression often provides a chance for other microorganisms to establish an infection that would otherwise be fought off, known as secondary infection. Because of this, birds infected with IBDV are more susceptible to secondary infections by Campylobacter, Salmonella and avian influenza, which further deteriorates their health and increases their risk of passing these diseases on to humans.
Understanding how IBDV replicates and how host cells respond to infection will provide vital insights for tackling the disease. IBDV also serves as a good model for other viruses that cause immunosuppression and could provide new information about the mechanisms that hinder immune responses and interfere with vaccine effectiveness.
Another goal of this research is the development of better treatments and vaccines, which would help to reduce IBDV incidence and protect the health and wellbeing of birds. This could also decrease the number of secondary diseases circulating in poultry populations, lowering the risk of human infection.
Dr Broadbent and his team are also passionate about reducing the number of birds used in research. They have recently developed a lab technique that allows the study of chicken immune cell responses to IBDV without infecting live chickens, published in the JoVE video journal to help other labs working on IBDV adopt the procedure.