Birnaviruses are non-enveloped viruses with capsids of icosahedral symmetry and a bi-segmented genome of double stranded RNA. Several birnaviruses have been identified that infect birds, insects and fish. As such, they are of major economic importance to both the poultry industry and aquaculture.
Dr Broadbent’s group studies infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), responsible for Gumboro disease in chickens. The virus infects and destroys B-cells and can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Birds that recover may also have impaired immune responses, increasing their susceptibility to other infections and reducing their ability to mount effective immune responses in vaccination programmes.
Through collaboration both internally with other groups at the Institute, and externally at other institutions, Dr Broadbent’s group aims to investigate the molecular biology, cell biology, and immunology of host-virus interactions, and develop novel control strategies.
Current research projects are divided into the following areas:
- Identification and characterisation of host factors responsible for disease pathogenesis
- Determination of viral factors that affect IBDV virulence
- Characterisation of IBDV-induced immunosuppression
- Evaluation of novel control strategies and vaccine platforms
IBDV is a key challenge to food security and the productivity of the poultry industry, with the economic impact of infection being through losses due to morbidity, mortality, and secondary infection caused by IBDV-mediated immunosuppression. The expected benefits of our research are novel vaccines and strategies for controlling IBDV, and an increased understanding of IBDV pathogenesis, immunosuppression and transmission. We are collaborating with industry and academia in order to meet our research goals, and we expect that our findings will benefit farmers, consumers, those interested in poultry health and welfare, and the scientific community at large.