Current Funded Research

Using cutting edge omics technologies, our researchers are mapping the bacteria viruses and metabolic markers in feline urine, and investigating associations with kidney disease and cystitis, two common problems affecting domestic cats. The results may inform new diagnostics, therapeutics and preventatives for these debilitating diseases.

In some circumstances, animals may acquire SARS-CoV-2 infection from infected people. The prevalence, risk factors and consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection in dogs, cats, farm animals and wildlife from several countries are being studied. SARS-CoV-2-positive animal samples will be investigated to understand virus evolution. System-level multivariate, multi-omics, multidimensional analyses and machine learning modelling will elucidate how the host commensal microbes may influence SARS-CoV-2 infection and molecular evolution, and thus strengthen our risk assessment and management of SARS-CoV-2 in the human population.

A previously unknown virus infection of cats, DCH (domestic cat hepadnavirus), is suspected to cause feline liver diseases, including liver cancer and chronic hepatitis. This study will deliver novel blood tests to detect different stages of DCH infection, paving the way for investigations into the impact of DCH infection on feline health globally. If DCH is confirmed to cause disease in cats, the blood tests developed here can be adapted to made commercially available to veterinarians.

Working donkeys are relied upon by millions in the developing world but the safe maximum load for equids remains unclear. This study seeks to define a 'fair load' for a donkey to carry, via non-invasive biomechanical and physiological assessment of animals carrying different loads. The results will inform strategies to reduce injuries and safeguard the welfare of working donkeys.

Veterinary students need to practice the techniques that they will eventually use the help animals. For some skills such as suturing, models provide a realistic learning experience. We are integrating cutting-edge AR technology to expand the range and quality of simulators used in veterinary learning. This project will improve veterinary student's technical skills and reduce the use of animals in teaching, therefore improving animal welfare.

Thousands of animals are surrendered to shelters in Hong Kong every year. On admission, they are vaccinated against infections that can be fatal if acquired, such as parvovirus and distemper. As we all know, only too well, after the experience with COVID-19, new infectious agents are constantly evolving, and shelters are one place where they can be detected. In this project we will use advanced DNA and RNA sequencing technologies to perform surveillance of the viruses that are carried in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of shelter-housed dogs and cats. This project will inform strategies for future vaccine development as well as biosecurity protocols in shelters.

Buffalo are ecosystem engineers that are essential for biodiversity conservation. Thus, it's surprising that there is little detailed evidence about their role in Lantau biodiversity conservation. Lantau's buffalo population is currently estimated at 160, mainly around Mui Wo, Pui O and Shui Hau. We will conduct a 3-year study to gain an understanding of their conservation, cultural and social importance, with the overall aim of maximising their sustainable conservation role.

This project has two complimentary parts: 1. Assess how the buffalo and their behaviours affect Lantau biodiversity, 2. Assess how buffalo-human relations influence buffalo in their conservation role.

Project Part 1 will determine the size and age structure of the population, population growth rate, and for wet and dry seasons, estimate the amount of food consumed, home range sizes, and also determine the sustainable population size.

Project Part 2 will focus on buffalo-human relations to assess anthropogenic influences on buffalo as agents of conservation. The research team combines expertise in behavioural ecology, veterinary sciences and social science. The time has come for scientific knowledge to help optimize the Lantau buffalo population for local and Hong Kong biodiversity conservation.