Undergraduate publishes their first research paper

UG student Sean Farrell

Last summer, Sean Farrell carried out a work placement in the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.

Sean was supervised by Prof Alan Radford and worked in the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) which collects clinical records in real-time from participating veterinary practices to track and monitor diseases in UK domesticated pets.

Sean looked at myxomatosis, a lethal highly contagious disease caused by the myxoma virus found in wild European rabbits. Some strains of myxoma can cause death within 14 days, and as there is no effective treatment, vaccination of domestic animals is very important.

The work studied the prevalence and associated risk factors for myxomatosis within pet rabbits. Whereas previous research had looked at wild rabbits, this was the first large scale study on pet rabbits in Great Britain. The work found similarities between wild and domesticated rabbits, but also some differences especially around sex and neuter status, with domesticated female rabbits being twice as likely to contract the disease compared to wild populations. The study also verified the protective effect of the myxomatosis vaccine.

Sean not only carried out the research, but also presented the findings to the Director of the large pharmaceutical company that produces the myxoma vaccine. This led to posters being produced and distributed to 500 veterinary practises in the UK to make pet rabbit owners more aware of the disease and the importance of vaccination.

Sean is currently a second-year undergraduate studying Biomedical Sciences at Kent and is hoping to continue into a career in epidemiology. Sean said “I owe everything to my supervisor Professor Radford and the fantastic team at Liverpool University which supported me along the way and I cannot thank everyone enough. I look forward to returning to the group this summer to tackle the next project!

Congratulations Sean on your fantastic achievement.