Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine

Image of Steve Dunham

Steve Dunham

Associate Professor of Veterinary Virology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Steve Dunham graduated in 1991 from the University of Bristol in Veterinary Science (BVSc). After a short time in general practice, he returned to Bristol Veterinary School as an intern in Small Animal Medicine and obtained his RCVS Certificate in Small Animal Cardiology in 1993. Research training in molecular biology as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Scholar at the University of Glasgow resulted in a number of publications characterising companion animal cytokines. Postdoctoral research initially concentrated on the development of lentiviral vaccines in the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) model. A number of experimental approaches were used in attempts to improve the efficacy of DNA vaccines for FIV including the use of cytokine adjuvants, codon optimisation and prime-boost vaccination with DNA and killed virus vaccines. Steve was appointed as Lecturer in Veterinary Virology at Glasgow University in June 2003 and successfully completed his PGCert in Postgraduate Education. Steve joined the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science as Associate Professor in Veterinary Virology in September 2008. His research interests centre largely around viruses and their interaction with hosts, with a particular focus on avian influenza viruses.

Expertise Summary

Steve is an Associate Professor in Veterinary Virology. He is actively involved in research and has responsibility for teaching virology and small group teaching sessions throughout the veterinary course. He has been actively involved in Student Support as Chair of the Student Progress Committee and Senior Tutor. Steve subsequently became Head of Division of Veterinary Surgery in 2014.

I have a broad range of interests in veterinary and fundamental virology. A key focus area is the study of influenza A in avian hosts. Using molecular and cellular approaches my research aims to understand the mechanisms of host resistance and disease development in avian species using ducks and chickens as representative hosts in a natural model for influenza A infection.

Recent Publications can be viewed on Google Scholar.

Teaching Summary

My key teaching roles are in virology both basic and clinical, small animal cardiology and communication skills.

Research Summary

Investigation of mechanisms of host resistance to influenza viruses. Among avian species, chickens and turkeys are susceptible to influenza and show higher morbidity and mortality than ducks… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

Investigation of mechanisms of host resistance to influenza viruses. Among avian species, chickens and turkeys are susceptible to influenza and show higher morbidity and mortality than ducks (especially those of the genus Anas). These contrasting outcomes following infection allow us to unravel differences in host innate responses using ducks and chickens as model species.

Key findings include:

1. More rapid cell death in cultured duck cells in comparison with chicken cells. Death appears to be due to apoptosis stimulated by intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. This correlates with a reduced production of infectious virus in cultured duck cells. The autophagic response of chicken and duck cells also appears to differ post-infection, though the relative importance of this remains to be determined.

2. Enhanced pro-inflammatory response in chicken cells compared with duck cells both in vitro and in vivo.

3. Marked variation in host innate immune response when cells are infected with different virus strains and subtypes. This emphasises the need for caution when interpreting the data from studies using single strains of virus (often host or cell culture adapted) in laboratory animals.

References available to view via Google Scholar or Research Gate.

Past Research

Development of improved vaccines against feline immunodeficiency virus infection. Previous research (1998 - 2005) was directed towards the development of vaccines, in particular DNA vaccines, against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Previously developed vaccines were limited in their ability to protect against challenge with relatively weakly pathogenic strains of the virus, consequently this work aimed to extend protection to more virulent isolates (more relevant to field isolates of FIV and as a realistic model of HIV). In the absence of sterilising immunity (i.e. complete protection) the quantification of viral loads in cats following challenge allows the efficacy of vaccination to be more accurately determined. I therefore developed sensitive methods for quantification of viral loads using real time PCR. New approaches to DNA vaccination utilised cytokine adjuvants, boosting with alternative immunogens and codon optimisation. These approaches led to some improvements in vaccine protection. However, they also underlined the difficulties in protecting against challenge with virulent strains of FIV.

Investigation of cytokine mRNA expression in companion animal disease.

An example of such studies includes previous research which described the potential importance of interleukin-1β, interleukin-8 and tumour necrosis factor α in horses with inflammatory airway disease. This is consistent with the postulated role of neutrophils in this disease syndrome.

Future Research

Canine Parvoviruses. Together with colleagues at SVMS, we are interested in investigating the current importance of canine parvovirus in dogs in the UK. Since its emergence in the 1970s the virus has continued to evolve, leading to changes in host tropism and worries regarding vaccine efficacy. While current vaccines appear to protect against currently circulating viruses, it is prudent to maintain active surveillance of what viruses are currently causing disease in UK dogs. The importance of vaccination against preventable disease in pets cannot be overestimated. However, there are often concerns that vaccination may lead to the development of immune mediated disease. consequent;y, we are interested to find out owners and vets attitudes to booster vaccination and the use of titre testing.

Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine

The University of Nottingham
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
College Road, Sutton Bonington, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6451