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Dr Barbara Blacklaws


In laboratory mice, indirect means such as serological or PCR testing of 'sentinel' mice are the most widely used methods to detect the presence of infectious agents within animal facilities. Limitations of this sentinel screening method for infection include false negatives, infrequent testing allowing significant transmission of infections, the source of infection may be unclear and finally sentinels may clear infections without seroconverting.  Given the importance of high health experimental animals for bio-medical research improved methods of infection screening should be investigated. Here we will concentrate on a limited set of enteric pathogens to set up methods for testing and modeling infection in mouse colonies.  Firstly, we will develop low-cost multiplexed real time PCR tests for multiple enteric pathogens. This will be used as a platform for faecal screening, and would allow enteric pathogens to be detected at an early stage. Secondly, we will develop protocols for molecular epidemiology of viruses. This approach will provide more information regarding both 1) the role of imported animals versus transmission between colony animals within a facility and 2) patterns of transmission of different pathogens that can inform pathogen specific control measures. Thirdly, we will develop statistical and mathematical models of disease transmission in animal facilities using data from the above and from routine health monitoring of animals. These can be used to estimate transmission rates, as well as to evaluate different sampling strategies in order to maximise the cost effectiveness of the diagnostic and molecular epidemiological protocols for disease surveillance and control/prevention.


  1. Pritchett-Corning, K. R.; Cosentino, J. & Clifford, C. B. (2009). Contemporary prevalence of infectious agents in laboratory mice and rats., Lab Anim 43 : 165-173.    
  2. Kitajima, M.; Oka, T.; Takagi, H.; Tohya, Y.; Katayama, H.; Takeda, N. & Katayama, K. (2010). Development and application of a broadly reactive real-time reverse transcription-PCR assay for detection of murine noroviruses., J Virol Methods 169 : 269-273.    
  3. Davies, R. L.; Paster, B. J. & Dewhirst, F. E. (1996). Phylogenetic relationships and diversity within the Pasteurella haemolytica complex based on 16S rRNA sequence comparison and outer membrane protein and lipopolysaccharide analysis., Int J Syst Bacteriol 46 : 736-744.

Dr Barbara Blacklaws

Dr Barbara Blacklaws
Department of Veterinary Medicine
Office Phone: 01223 337609

Second supervisor:

Simon Frost