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Full NameDr Emma J O'Neill

School of Veterinary Medicine

University College Dublin

Email Address:Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Research Fields
  • infectious disease and the immune system
  • Other
Other Research Fields:

Canine liver disease, Medical education

Postgrad Medical Specialties
  • Medicine
  • Veterinary Medicine
Medical Subspecialties
  • Gastroenterology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Other
Other Medical Specialties:

Medical education

My Work

Canine neutrophilic cholangitis

Neutrophilic cholangitis (NC) is increasingly identified in dogs but the aetiopathogenesis is poorly understood. Initial work centred on a descriptive studies of this condition, aiming to characterise key clinical features. A small case series (O'Neill et al 2006) and then a retrospective, multi-centre study and larger case series (Tamborini et al 2016) identified an association between NC with gallbladder (GB) disease, suggesting a common aetiopathogenesis or that one condition predisposes to the other. In addition, multidrug resistant bacteria were commonly identified in these cases with important One Health implications.

More recent work, performed in my lab as a DVMS project (Martinez), focussed on the use of fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) to further characterise the role of bacteria in NC and gallbladder disease, identifying the gallbladder as an important nidus for infection. Nanostring technology allowed characterisation of the gene expression pattern in a series of NC cases, helping to start to unravel the aetiopathogenesis of this condition, with the first paper published earlier this year (Ryan et al 2023). The final part of this study was an ultrasound study aimed at establishing a reference interval for the normal thickness of the gallbladder wall (Martinez et al 2023). A current DVMS project (Broadbridge) is continuing this work, looking at differences in the gene expression patterns between dos with NC and those with reactive hepatitis, and additionally at the diagnostic performance of ultrasound in canine gallbladder disease.

Veterinary education

Metacognitive skills are key transversal skills that underpin many of the skills now recognised as key for sustainable education. A study performed as a UCD Fellowship in Teaching and Academic Development explored how the virtual learning environment could be leveraged to aid development of these crucial skills in students. Having trialled our Metacognition Design Framework in three case studies within three very different academic disciplines (Veterinary Medicine, Social Science and Sports Science), we completed additional pilot studies to explore the extension of this approach into other disciplines (Architecture, Maths, Nursing and Nutrition). We have also developed an open-access learning resource to offer experiential learning to educators.

Potential Projects

Investigation of canine inflammatory liver disease

Two main areas of investigation stem from previous work by my group;

• Further characterisation of the aetiopathogenesis of canine inflammatory liver disease using Nanostring technology. Current work will also be extended to look at chronic hepatitis, one of the most commonly diagnosed canine liver diseases. Despite its frequent occurrence, chronic hepatitis remains very poorly understood; the use of Nanostring technology in the setting offers exciting potential to start exploring the aetiopathogenesis of this common condition.

• Characterisation of the bacteria involved in canine cholangitis and cholecystitis. The bacteria involved in these conditions frequently show multidrug resistance, with important implications from an antimicrobial stewardship perspective. Investigation of the virulence factors and antimicrobial resistance markers in these bacteria will help to further characterise their features, providing valuable information that will help to guide their effective management.

Development of metacognitive skills in students

The plan is to roll out a more extensive campus-wide study investigating the transferability of this approach to a variety of disciplines. The work will use mixed methods approaches to evaluate both the staff and student experiences of the value of the learning interventions. The aim is also to further refine the framework informed both by the results of these studies and use of an external teaching module to gather stakeholder feedback on experiences of using the Metacognition Design Framework.