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Tropical Animal Health and Production

Lab Overview

This Lab was started in 2016, after the fusion of Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (IICT) with the University of Lisbon. The University assumed IICT mission and, within this frame, the Lab is focused on developing scientific research and promoting scientific and technical capability on Animal Health and Animal Production issues with relevance in tropical environments, with a particular emphasis on Portuguese speaking countries.

At present, the main research subjects on the Animal Health area are the apicomplexan parasites Besnoitia besnoiti and Toxoplasma gondii and ticks and tick transmitted pathogens. The work focuses on the host/pathogen interaction and on the development of improved diagnostic methods and vaccines.

 The studies on Besnoitia besnoiti have been focused on the interaction with the host cell tubulin cytoskeleton, centrosome and Golgi apparatus and on improving diagnostic tests and developing epidemiological studies. In Toxoplasma gondii, more attention has been given to the role of proteins that we postulate to be involved in invasion, and in the regulation of the parasite replication and cyst formation.

For many infectious agents there are no suitable vaccines and some of the vaccines currently in use show lower efficacy when applied in vaccination programmes in tropical climates. Aiming to contribute for the development of better vaccines, we have been studying the modulation of the immune response by targeting TLR2, alone or in combination with other innate stimuli.

We are also working on the tick-host adhesion complex (cement) so as to understand its natural structural changes occurring during the ectoparasite life cycle, allowing its detachment and enabling it to fall from the host. Understanding cement degradation could lead to the identification of an antigen to base a vaccine capable of inhibiting or decreasing cement preservation and inducing tick precocious fall out interrupting its life cycle.

Recently, we initiated a research line concerning anti-Trypanosoma defense systems in Glossina flies in collaboration with Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Within the Animal Production area the studies involve the identification of genetic and functional profile of animal and plant (pastures and forages) adaptation to drought, hyperthermia and seasonal feed restriction regarding meat and milk production. Rural development projects are being implemented in Portuguese speaking African countries, in partnership with local and Portuguese NGOs, dealing with agriculture and livestock trading and production systems.


Selected Publications

Basto, A.P., Badenes, M., Almeida, S.C.P. Martins, C., Duarte, A., Santos, D.M., Leitão, A. 2015. Immune response profile elicited by the model antigen ovalbumin expressed in fusion with the bacterial OprI lipoprotein. Mol. Immunol. 64: 36-45.

Cardoso, R., Nolasco, S., Gonçalves, J., Cortes, H.C., Leitão, A., Soares, H. 2014. Besnoitia besnoiti and toxoplasma gondii: Two apicomplexan strategies to manipulate the host cell centrosome and Golgi apparatus. Parasitology 141:1436-1454.

Van Harten, S., Brito, R., Almeida, A.M., Scanlon,  T. Kilminster, T.,  Milton, J.,  Greeff, J., Oldham, C., Cardoso, L.A. 2013. Gene expression of regulatory enzymes involved in the intermediate metabolism of sheep subjected to feed restriction. Animal 7: 439-445.

Zúquete, S.T., Coelho, J., Rosa, F., Vaz, Y., Cassamá, B., Padre, L., Santos, D., Basto, A.P., Leitão, A. (2017). Tick (Acari: Ixodidae) infestations in cattle along Geba River basin in Guinea-Bissau. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 8:161-169.

Almeida, A.M., Palhinhas, R.G., Kilminster, T., Scanlon, T., van Harten, S., Milton, J., Blache, D., Greeff, J., Oldham, C., Coelho, A.V., Cardoso, L.A. 2016. The effect of weight loss on the muscle proteome in the Damara, Dorper and Australian Merino ovine breeds. PLoS ONE 11:e0146367



Major Collaborations

Department of Agriculture and Food of Western Australia.

Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Grupo SALUVET, Departamento de Sanidad Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

Chair for Experimental Parasitology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany.

Grupo de Plegamiento de Proteinas del citoesqueleto (PPCK), Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain.

Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical (IHMT), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.

Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica (ITQB), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.

Centro de Química e Bioquímica, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal.

Laboratório de Parasitologia, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária, Portugal.