Green Parrot

Parrot infected with Beak and feather disease virus

The focus of the Veterinary Biotechnology group is to look at strategies for improved disease control – mainly in avian species – through prevention, treatment, and biosecurity. Due to the improper use of antibiotics, resistance is now a growing concern. Thus, many current research activities have been on alternative treatment options in a post-antibiotic era, including work on bacteriophage therapy and the expression of bacteriophage enzymes. The expression of antibody fragments and short peptides also forms part of this research drive.

Recently, resistance to disinfectants has become known, jeopardising biosecurity measures. To overcome this, we need to understand the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to disinfectants by studying the genome and transcriptomes of these organisms.

In addition to antibiotic and disinfectant resistance, vaccine breaks often occur mainly due to new strains (such as with SARS-CoV-2) or serovars, thereby impeding prevention strategies. To address this, our group is looking at developing new generation vaccines, focusing on sub-unit vaccines recombinantly expressed in our patented yeast-based expression system. These vaccines are for use against viral and bacterial infections of avian species, including Escherichia coli, beak and feather disease virus, infectious bronchitis virus, Avibacterium paragallinarum, and SARS-CoV-2.

Avibacterium paragallinarum, the causative agent of infectious coryza in poultry, has been the primary research area within our group, where we have contributed much to the literature on this pathogen.

Research focus on the following:

  • Development of a recombinant subunit vaccine against this organism
  • Characterising the antigens in different serovars with molecular techniques
  • Identifying prophages that may influence virulence
  • Studying the genomes and proteomes of different serovars
  • Understanding the immunological mechanisms during the onset of disease

Yeast cells expressing antigens of interest

Yeast cells expressing antigens of interest

Phage plate

Agar plate showing the effects that bacteriophages can have on bacteria 


Viral testing on embriotic egg

Candling of chicken eggs used for virus isolation

Sick chicken

A chicken with infectious coryza


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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