The Palmarini Group

Massimo Palmarini research

Our laboratory studies the biology and pathogenesis of livestock diseases induced by emerging arboviruses such as Bluetongue virus (BTV) and Schmallenberg virus (SBV).

Current research

Approximately 30 percent of all infectious diseases that emerged between 1990 and 2000 were caused by arthropod-borne viruses (arbovirus). This is probably the result of a combination of factors including a dramatic increase in travelling and commercial exchanges, climate and ecological changes and increased livestock production. In addition, changes in trading and commercial policies have created optimal conditions for the movement of infected vertebrate hosts and invertebrate vectors over wide geographical areas.

Bluetongue virus

Bluetongue virus BTV electronmicrographBluetongue is one of the major infectious diseases of livestock. The disease is caused by a double-stranded segmented virus known as bluetongue virus (BTV). This virus is transmitted from infected to uninfected hosts by biting midges. In the last decade, repeated BTV incursions have occurred throughout Europe.

The recent outbreak of BTV-8 in central and northern Europe is the largest recorded outbreak in the history of bluetongue, leading to the death of >2 million animals and causing extensive damage to the European economy. We have several research programmes looking at various aspects of BTV biology and pathogenesis.

Mainly, we aim to understand the determinants of BTV pathogenesis and the main factors that control the clinical outcome of BTV infection. Bluetongue viruses infect ruminants, but the clinical manifestations of infection vary considerably between hosts, ranging from completely asymptomatic to fatal. In the last few years, novel, apparently avirulent serotypes, and vaccine strains have been isolated in the field and are contributing to the BTV "landscape".

At the moment, regulatory agencies treat any BTV incursion in the UK or the EU in essentially the same way. By better understanding the determinants of BTV virulence we may be able to design control strategies that "fit" the risks posed by a specific incursion and the circumstances surrounding it.

Schmallenberg virus

Section through an SBV infected spinal cordIn addition to BTV, our laboratory has developed tools and reagents to study Schmallenberg virus (SBV), an emerging Bunyavirus that is spreading rapidly in the livestock of many European countries, including the UK. SBV infection of a susceptible pregnant animal can be associated with congenital malformations in stillborn or newborn lambs and calves. SBV belongs to the genus Orthobunyavirus within the Bunyaviridae.

The Bunyaviridae is a large family comprising hundreds of viruses able to infect a broad range of vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. With the exception of hantaviruses, all the members of this family are transmitted by arthropod vectors. SBV is a new emerging virus and we are at present characterising the biology and pathogenesis of this pathogen.

Research group members

Siddarth Baksh

Siddharth Bakshi
Research Associate

Mohammad Khalid Zakaria
Research Associate

Wilhelm Furnon
Research Associate

Vanessa Herder
Research Associate

Georgios Ilia
Research Technician

 Xinyi Huang
 PhD Student

Aislynn Taggart

Aislynn Taggart
Laboratory Manager

Jay Allan
Research Technician