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Full NameProfessor Finola Leonard

Veterinary Pathobiology

University College Dublin

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Research Fields
  • one health
Postgrad Medical Specialties
  • Veterinary Medicine
Medical Subspecialties
  • Veterinary Public Health
My Work

Current research projects fit under the One Health umbrella and comprise projects investigating antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animals and the environments they inhabit. Recent projects use metagenomic techniques to examine the microbiome and resistome of domestic animals; as the pig production sector has traditionally been associated with high levels of antimicrobial use and resistance, much of our work has focussed on this sector. However, other projects have investigated AMR in cattle and companion animals, with the latter deemed of increasing importance due to the close contact between owners and their pets and resultant possibility of resistance transmission. The UCD Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has been recently approved as a training centre of the European College of Veterinary Microbiology and research into the increased numbers of resistant infections diagnosed in the laboratory and factors affecting their occurrence is an area with much scope for further development.

Potential Projects

The increasing availability of whole genome sequencing and metagenomic analysis permits far more detailed investigation of AMR at both individual organism and microbial population levels than in the past. Studies in farm animals, especially in pigs, indicate that factors apart from antimicrobial use, including the age of the host and environmental hygiene can influence the resistome. There is also evidence in dogs that dietary composition may affect the presence of antimicrobial genes in the intestine, with high protein diets being associated with a greater abundance of antimicrobial genes than low protein diets. Together with my colleague, Prof Bryan Markey, also a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Microbiology, I am interested in investigating the effects of hospitalisation including antimicrobial treatment, infection control practices and diet on AMR in both clinical isolates and the whole faecal resistome of companion animals (pets and horses). The possibility of manipulating the diet and environment to minimise the carriage of resistant organisms/genes in hospitalised animals is intriguing.