Dr Caroline Millins
- Affiliate Researcher, Associate (Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health & Comparative Medicine)
I have broad interests in the ecology and pathology of infectious diseases. In my research I have used a combination of fieldwork, genetic analysis of pathogens and modelling to identify ecological drivers of zoonotic pathogens. These findings can be used to develop recommendations for management interventions and also public health policy. Current projects include:
- Ecological drivers of the vector-borne pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi and its vector Ixodes ricinus in Scotland.
- Developing next generation sequencing methods to detect mixed strain infections in hosts and vectors.
- Investigating zoonotic and environmental reservoirs of Clostridium difficile.
Ecological drivers of Lyme borreliosis in Scotland
Lyme borreliosis is an emerging zoonosis in parts of Europe and North America. We are using a variety of approaches to identify ecological drivers of the tick vector and bacterial pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi. These include collections of ticks and environmental data from woodland sites across Scotland, around Loch Lomond and non-forested sites in the Outer Hebrides, long term studies of tick infestations on a woodland bird community and studies on the role invasive grey squirrels in Scotland, and invasive populations of hedgehogs in the Hebrides may play in pathogen dynamics. We have found that host communities, habitat and climate can affect the local transmission dynamics of B. burgdorferi and the potential risk of infection for humans. These types of studies can inform how environmental changes such as changes to habitats and host communities may affect the dynamics of this pathogen and the vector and can be useful in forming management recommendations. If you would like to hear more about my research, you can listen to a podcast recorded at the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE) by the Society for Microbiology.
Collaborators: Roman Biek, Reader, IBAHCM, Lucy Gilbert, Senior Research Fellow, IBAHCM, Mafalda Viana, Research Fellow, IBAHCM, University of Glasgow
Funding: NERC- Case PhD studentship with Scottish Natural Heritage
Developing next generation sequencing methods to detect mixed strain infections in hosts and vectors.
Detection of mixed strain infections is important in the epidemiological study of infection in hosts and vectors and the ecology and evolution of these pathogens. Measuring the dominant strain in genus or strain specific PCR’s can result in partial or mixed strain types which masks transmission events and mechanisms driving the ecology and evolution of these pathogens. Next generation sequencing offers great potential to provide the resolution needed to quantify mixed strain infections.
Collaborators: Roman Biek, Reader, IBAHCM, Willie Weir, Bioinformatician, IBAHCM, Graham Hamilton, Bioinformatician, Glasgow Polyomics, University of Glasgow, Xavier Bailly, Maude Jacquot, INRA, France.
Funding: Wellcome Trust ISSF
Investigating zoonotic and environmental reservoirs of Clostridium difficile
Clostridium difficile infection is the most common cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in the developed world with significant morbidity and mortality in the elderly. As well as health care associated infections, infection of the elderly, adults and children living within the community is a globally emerging and potentially underdiagnosed problem. At present, the source and risk factors for this type of infection remain unclear. Currently there are many hypotheses about possible sources of infection as the bacteria can infect and generate contaminating spores in a variety of warm-blooded animals and can persist as spores in soil and water. Potential reservoirs include healthy human carriers, as well as domestic animal reservoirs and contamination of food and water. We are currently testing for faecal carriage of this bacteria in companion animals and livestock as well as in soil and water samples.
Collaborators: Dr Gillian Douce, Senior lecturer in Bacteriology, University of Glasgow, Professor John Coia and Dr Derek Brown, Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratories, Glasgow, Alison Ridyard, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow
Funding: Veterinary Fund Small Grant scheme: Risk factors for Clostridium difficile carriage in dogs and association with clinical disease.
Veterinary Fund PhD Scheme: A One Health Approach to investigation of colonisation and disease with C. difficile in animals and humans
Graduate student supervision
2016 - Sara Gandy: The effects of Host Community Composition on Lyme Disease transmission in Scotland. Co-supervisor with Dr Roman Biek and Dr Lucy Gilbert
2018 - Davide Pagnossin: A One Health approach to assess linkages between Clostridium difficile colonisation and disease in animals and humans. Supervisor with Dr Gill Douce
2018 - Daisy Gates: Assessing the impact of red deer and hedgehogs on Lyme disease risk in the Outer Hebrides. Co-supervisor with Dr Roman Biek, Lucy Gilbert and Mafalda Viana.
MSc Quantitative Methods, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow
2016. Rachel Steenson: Factors affecting tick infestations on breeding woodland bird communities and the relative importance of different bird species as transmission hosts for B. burgdorferi s.l. Co-supervisor with Dr Stewart White
2015-2016. Eleanor Dickinson: The effect of deer in the spatial distribution of ticks, Ixodus ricinus,and tick-borne Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in a naturally fragmented habitat. Co-supervisor with Dr Roman Biek
2017-2018. Walter Leo: The role of deer and rodents in maintaining ticks and Borrelia burgdorferi in non-forested habitats in the Hebrides. Co-supervisor with Dr Roman Biek
MSc Infection Biology, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflamation, University of Glasgow
2016. Amy Irvine: Investigating the prevalence and diversity of Clostridium difficile carriage by dairy cattle in Scotland. Supervisor with Dr Gillian Douce.
2016. Samantha McNaught: Identification of novel environmental reservoirs of Clostridium difficile infection. Co-supervisor with Dr Gillian Douce.
MVetSc Conservation Medicine, University of Edinburgh
2016-2017. Kari-Anne Heald: Could disease be a limiting factor in polecat recovery? Co-supervisor with Professor Anna Meredith, University of Edinburgh
MRes Biomedical Sciences
2019. Reece Davidson: Assessing peri-domestic risk of Lyme disease in the Outer Hebrides. Supervisor with Dr Roman Biek
Grants and Awards listed are those received whilst working with the University of Glasgow.
- Clostridium difficile in dogs - PetPlan
Petplan Charitable Trust
2019 - 2020
- Bird Transmission Lyme Disease
Glasgow Natural History Society
2016 - 2017
- Could disease be a limiting factor in polecat recovery
Glasgow Natural History Society
2016 - 2017
- Could disease be a limiting factor in polecat recovery?
The Zebra Foundation for Veterinary Zoological Education
2016 - 2017
- Quantifying multiple strain infections for a tick-borne pathogen using next-generation sequencing (ISSF STS)
2015 - 2015
- Gandy, Sara
Biodiversity impacts on Lyme disease rosk and pathogen genetics
Wildlife disease investigation: I teach wildlife disease investigation as part of the final year veterinary student Wildlife and Livestock Management elective. This includes group discussions on the principles of wildlife disease investigation and surveillance, a practical on post mortem examination of wildlife and an outbreak investigation exercise.
Final year rotation: This hands on week in pathology strengthens final year veterinary students day one skills in post mortem examination, description of gross pathological lesions and the collection of samples for diagnostic testing. With the pathologist and resident on duty, students discuss the history of the submitted cases and possible differential diagnoses. All students have the opportunity to carry out at least one or more post mortem examinations and prepare a written report with the gross findings and recommendations for further testing or treatment/management as appropriate. Farm animal clinicians, residents and students join for case discussions following post mortem examinations of livestock.
Final year Selective: A four week elective training in veterinary pathology focusing on post-mortem examination, description of gross pathology, writing of post-mortem reports and learning basic histopathology skills.
Resident training: I contribute to supervision and training of residents in anatomic veterinary pathology.
University of Glasgow pathology club: I am the advisor for the American College of Veterinary Pathology student group. The students organise several lectures and ‘wet lab’ practicals during the year.
Pathology lectures and practicals
Overview of inflammation and the acute inflammatory response
Patterns of disease in the kidney
Patterns of disease in the lung, inflammation
Patterns of disease in the lung, neoplasia
Respiratory pathology practical
Collection of samples for diagnostic testing practical
Blue Sky Lecture: 'Ticks as Vectors'
Post mortem demonstrations – interactive tutorial using pathology specimens from the previous weeks post-mortem submissions.
Specimen description practical – practice of describing gross pathology based on abbatoir specimens
Ticks as Vectors