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Institute for Animal Health student wins presentation award

Conference delegates impressed by virus microevolution talk

6 October 2010

Caroline Wright, a PhD student based at the Pirbright Laboratory of the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), an institute of BBSRC, has scooped a prize at the biannual UN/FAO meeting of The Executive Committee of the European Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD) Commission, held at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria, 28 Sept - 1 Oct 2010.

Wright was awarded EUR400 for her presentation 'Can next generation sequencing be used to unravel fine scale FMDV population dynamics?' Prize money was donated by Prionics, a Switzerland-based company founded in 1997 as a spin-off from Zurich University.

Caroline Wright. Image: Jenny Sullivan

Caroline Wright was also a finalist in the Society for General Microbiology's Young Microbiologist of the Year competition presenting on the same subject.
Image: Jenny Sullivan.

Wright says she's very pleasantly surprised by the award. "I would say the overriding feeling is that of pride - in our project and the interest and discussion it's generating," she says, paying tribute to her supervisors Don King and David Paton at IAH and Dan Haydon at Glasgow University, and her colleague Marco Morelli, also at Glasgow University, who is responsible for the project's primary computational analysis.

Wright's presentation described a pilot study carried out to investigate the use of next-generation sequencing to dissect fine scale foot-and-mouth disease population dynamics, an integral part of her PhD. The results show how within-host replication causes an increase in the genetic diversity of the viral population which can be used to calculate an approximate upper limit on the virus mutation rate.

It is hoped that quantifying the microevolutionary dynamics of viral populations at the within-host scale may result in a better understanding of viral evolution and transmission at larger scales. "Such as from animal to animal, farm to farm, region to region, all the way to global transmission patterns," says Wright.

EuFMD is one of the FAO's oldest Commissions. Established in 1954 at a time when FMD was prevalent in Europe, EuFMD supports member countries (currently 35) in Europe and beyond; by implementing projects in the Caucasus, Turkey and Iran aimed reducing the risk to south-east Europe for example.

Located at FAO headquarters, EuFMD facilitates the exchange of information and expertise between countries to improve design of preventive measures and supports a specialised reference laboratory (World Reference Laboratory for FMD) based in the UK at IAH.


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Arran Frood

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