University of Saskatchewan

Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary Microbiology

Graduate Students


Ayalew, Lisanework, Molecular Virology

Research Interests: My research area focuses on virus-cell interactions; more specifically it involves investigating the role of polypeptide VIII of Bovine Adenovirus (BAdV-3) in the life cycle of the virus.  The study entails molecular characterization of protein VIII including its intracellular dynamics, identifying cellular protein interacting partners and determining the biological function of the interactions and finally, assessing the significance of protein VIII in the replication of BAdV-3.  The study encompasses cell biology, genomics and proteomics.


Costa, Matheus, Molecular Microbiology


Darbellay, Joseph

Research Interests:  I am interested in studying the immune response in pig dendritic cells to the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus.  I will determine the effects that variation in specific viral genes have on the immune response to PRRSV.  Further elucidating the roles of the genes, in addition to studying the overall pathogenesis, will aid in the development of a vaccine candidate.


Elmore, Stacey,  Parasite Ecology

Research Interests: Parasite ecology


Facci, Marina,  Immunology

Research Interests: Immunology.


Gaba, Amit

Research Interests: Adenoviruses have become a popular tool for gene transfer into mammalian cells because of their properties like broad tropism, rapid growth to high titers in tissue culture and transgene carrying capacity of up to 30kb.  Moreover adenoviral genome is easy to manipulate and it does not integrate into host chromosome thereby minimizing the risk of insertional mutagensis.  In order to overcome limitations of human adenovirus vectors, a variety of non-human adenoviral vectors have been proposed as promising vector candidates.  In addition to most of the attractive features of HAdV vectors, these vectors have several unique properties like species specificity, safety against inappropriate vector replication and providing the vector backbone without preexisting immune response.  Our laboratory has been working on characterizing various gene products of BAdV-3 so that this information can be ultimately used for the development of BAdV-3 as an efficient vector for gene delivery.


Gesy, Karen, Veterinary Microbiology

Research Interests: Echinococcus multilocalaris is a zoonotic tapeworm with its natural lifecylce involving rodents and carnivores.  In humans, ingestion of the eggs can cause alveolar hydatid disease, which is most invariably fatal if left untreated.  Echinococcus multilocularis is considered to be one of the most severe human parasitoses.  In the last few decades many European nations have seen an increase in the rate of infections in both humans and wildlife, and its geographic range is expanding worldwide.

In Canada, very little genetic characterization has been done on E. multilocalaris.  My research will focus on characterization of the geographic distribution and genetic diversity of Echinococcus multilocalaris in Canada.  The results of this study will revise understanding of the complex history and ecology of E. multilocalaris, and lay the foundation for understanding the effects of future landscapre and climate change on this parasite and of public health and wildlife management significance.


Katyal, Isha, Molecular Biology

Research Interests: The complex community of microorganisms inhabiting the intestinal tract plays an important role in animal health.  Genomic variation in phenotypically distinct pathogenic bacteria has been investigated; however, little has been done to characterize gene content differences that contribute to diversity in natural microbial communities. My research project is focused on non-pathogenic Enterococcus strains isolated from swine faeces.

The aim of the project is to identify and characterize strain-specific differences in the microbiota of the pig intestine and study the effects of various factors such as time, development and diet on strain level population dynamics in the pig intestine.  The results will help us understand niche specialization and the selective and evolutionary forces that shape complex microbial communities.


Li, Chunyan,  Immunology

Research Interests: Asthma is a chronic allergic disorder causing breathing difficulty in response to allergens. Severe asthma can be life threatening. Current treatment can relieve symptoms but are ineffective in modifying the progression of asthma. In our lab, previous studies have showed that interleukin (IL)-10 differentiated dendritic cells (DCIL-10) tolerized asthmatic mice and the tolerance is associated with upregulation of regulatory T cells function in the lung.

Based on previous studies, we hypothesize that the endogenous lung dendritic cells in DCIL10-treated asthmatic mice take on a regulatory phenotype and participate in infectious tolerance pathways involving T cells, and both treatment and endogenous dendritic cells. This study will help to understand the mechanism of DCIL10 tolerance induction in asthma and provide a theoretical foundation for further clinical therapy.


Links, Matthew,  Molecular Biology

Research Interests: The complex communities of bacteria that live on or in humans and animals play a crucial role in the development and health of their host.  Until recently, our ability to address questions about the structure and function of microbial communities has been limited by a lack of methods to accurately identify community members and monitor their dynamics. The application of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques is revolutionizing the accessibility of DNA sequence data. However, it is also presenting tremendous challenges to biologists in data interpretation and visualization. 

My work is focused on exploiting NGS data to profile bacterial communities, identify species richness and microbial diversity and connect community structure and dynamics with health status in the host.


MacKenzie-Dyck, Sarah, Immunology/DNA Vaccine

Research Interests: Bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1) is an underlying factor in cattle industry economic losses. Improvements in vaccine cost, safety and effectiveness could be seen with the development of a successful DNA vaccine for BHV-1. In this work, we test the hypothesis that a more robust response could be obtained by engineering a DNA vaccine so that a cationic beta-defensin peptide is expressed with the BHV-1 antigen to target and attract immature dendritic cells (iDCs).

In vitro, my project includes screening synthesized bovine beta-defensin peptides for chemotactic and immunomodulatory activity toward iDCs. Cattle vaccinated with DNA encoding the most chemotactic peptide will be used to determine the in vivo effects on immune responses. It is hoped that the results of the study will contribute to development of an effective BHV-1 DNA vaccine for cattle.


Makadiya, Nirajkumar,  Molecular Virology

Research Interests: Adenoviruses are potential candidates for gene and antigen delivery to the human and animals. They are non-enveloped, icosahedral viruses with linear double stranded DNA of around 36 kbp. Bovine adenovirus type (BAdV)-3 is a promising viral vector due to low virulence in host, high titer production and absence of preexisting immunity in human. BAdV-3 100K gene occupies about 10% of viral genome, which is transcribed late in viral life cycle to produce non-structural protein.

An attempt will be made to search viral and cellular proteins interacting with 100K protein of BAdV-3 and their biological significance in the viral replication and host cellular response using gene deletions and mutant viruses.


Paramel, Teenus,  Molecular Biology

Research Interests: The complex microbial community present in the human vagina (vaginal microbiota) is important as imbalances in this population are associated with conditions like vaginosis and pregnancy related complications. Although it is of great importance, the vaginal microbiome of clinically healthy women remains poorly characterized.

The goal of our team is to determine if there is a "core" vaginal microbiome shared by clinically healthy women of reproductive age. We will characterize the vaginal microbiota of women through the menstrual cycle using culture independent methods involving high through-put pyrosequencing of DNA from samples of the microbiota. The results of these studies will create a baseline resource for future studies focused on understanding the relationship between vaginal microbial population structure and pre-term birth.


Park, Hong-su, Molecular Virology

Research Interests:


Paur, Nicole,  Inflammation and Immunity

Research Interests: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body.  Neutrophils contribute to the pathogenesis of arthritis, and are recruited to the site of inflammation by chemokines.  CXCL8/IL-8 is a member of a family of chemokines (ELR-CXC chemokines) that activate and attract neutrophils through the CXCR1 and CXCR2 receptors.  Our lab developed a high affinity CXCR1/CXCR2 antagonist, called CXCL8(3-73)K11R/G31P (G31P). This antagonist has been shown to be highly effective in blocking ELR-CXC chemokine-driven neutrophilic inflammation. 

Our lab is now testing the effectiveness of G31P in reducing the severity of arthritis in experimental mice.


Potter, Jean,  Immunology

Research Interests: Mucosal epithelial cells provide a barrier to both commensal microorganisms and invading pathogens and play a role in the activation of innate immune responses. Salmonella invades the intestinal epithelium, resulting in a profound inflammatory response. It thus provides a model with which to analyze the role of epithelial cells in the initiation of mucosal immune responses. 

We have developed a bovine intestinal epithelial cell line and, using siRNA technology, will modulate the expression of innate immune genes in these cells. Cells will be infected with Salmonella and analyzed to determine the role of specific immune genes in regulating cellular responses. Understanding the roles of these genes in the induction of innate immune responses will provide an understanding of the regulation of mucosal inflammation and immunity.


Sachdeva, Rohini, Molecular Virology

Research Interests:  The role of neutralizing antibodies in PRRSV infection


Schroeder, Kristen


Schurer, Janna

Research Interests: Janna Schurer works with remote and Aboriginal northern communities to determine prevalence of parasites in pets, wildlife, and exposure risk to humans. She specifically focuses on Echinococcus granulosus, which is a zoonotic tapeworm of human health concern, as well as Baylisascaris, Diphyllobothrium, Toxocara, and Giardia. Other interests include providing veterinary services to remote communities, as well as introducing dog population control measures that are sustainable and humane. Once finished her graduate work, she hopes to return to the jungles of Asia to continue her work with elephants and indigenous peoples.


Szombathy, Kaitlin


Town, Jennifer

Research Interests:  Biogas produced using anaerobic digestion of agricultural biomass is becoming a more popular and economically viable source of energy.  If sufficiently optimized, the system can be cost effective, environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral.

We are presently characterizing the microbial consortia present in anaerobic digesters processing a combination of distillery waste products and cattle manure.  By determining the microbial profiles associated with high-performing digesters, we hope to manipulate operating conditions to increase production and efficiency.


Woldemariam, Tekeleselassie

Research Interests:  My research focuses on assessing the effect of Bovine Adenovirus-3 on ribosome biogenesis.  In cells of Bovine origin, infected with the virus, cellular ribosome biogenesis will be examined using various experimental approaches.  In addition, the role of viral proteins in the cellular ribosome biogenesis will be examined.


Wu, Qi,

Research Interests: My main project is molecular pathogenesis of HBV HCV co-infection.  Because these two viruses have the same modes of transmission, HBV HCV co-infection is found in approximately 7 - 20 million people globally.  This research will make a significant contribution to prevent the high risk of development of HCC in HBC HCV co-infection patients.


Zhang, Rui

Research Interests: Zhangfei is a basic region–leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factor, which has been implicated in the differentiation and death of different tumor cells. We also found, Meanwhile, Zhangfei can simultaneously turn off the three arms of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in D-17 canine osteosarcoma cells.

We are presently investigating the effect of transcription factor Zhangfei on dog cancer cells and the molecular mechanism responsible.  We will use various dog cancer cell lines and spontaneous dog tumor cells to test the hypothesis that: Zhangfei can prevent the viability and growth of canine tumors cells and/or the development of resistance to hypoxia, radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs through inhibiting the unfolded protein response (UPR) or other molecular mechanism.


Zhao, Xin