Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Host-Pathogen Interactions and Vaccinology, IRLFS (Research Programme)

Damer is Professor of parasite genetics. His research interests are focused on protozoan parasites and pathogens of poultry using genetics and molecular biology.

Damer graduated with a degree in Animal Science from Wye College (University of London) in 1997. Following an MSc in Pig Production, he completed a PhD in bacterial genetics, both at the University of Aberdeen. After the completion of his PhD in 2001 he took up a post at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) working on avian coccidiosis caused by the protozoan Eimeria species. During his time at IAH he carried out fundamental and applied genetics-led research, contributing to the Eimeria genome sequencing consortium, developing reverse-genetics strategies for use with Eimeria, designing a series of new molecular diagnostic tools and using genetic mapping as a step towards development of a new generation of cost-effective anticoccidial vaccines. In 2010 Damer joined the Royal Veterinary College, where he was appointed professor in 2016. Damer is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Avian Pathology and a member of the executive committee of the World Veterinary Poultry Association.

Since joining the RVC Damer has extended his research interests in Eimeria - protozoan parasites with cause the disease coccidiosis in all livestock species, most notably poultry. These parasites can cause a severe enteritis and have been estimated to cost the global poultry production industry in excess of £10 billion per annum. Current research strands include continuing studies to map genetic loci that encode genuinely immunoprotective antigens as vaccine candidates and the development of Eimeria as a novel vaccine delivery vehicle (in collaboration with Prof. Fiona Tomley). More recently, Damer has developed research interests in Eimeria population genetics and genetic diversity, interactions of Eimeria with bacterial pathogens of poultry, parasite diagnostics, microbiomes and studies on parasite evolution in domestic and wild animals. Damer also works with a range of other apicomplexan parasites including Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium species, as well as the poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae), and in the wider areas of poultry health and gut integrity.

Current projects include:

GCRF One Health Poultry Hub, Led by Tomley FM

Blake DP and Tomley FM
Trangenic Eimeria as novel anticoccidial vaccines.
Agricatalyst fund. 2018-2020.

Blake DP and Tomley FM
The role of interleukin-10 (IL-10) in the regulation of innate immunity in the domestic chicken.
BBSRC responsive mode Industrial partnering award with the Roslin Institute and Cobb-Vantress. 2017-2020.

Blake DP, Werling D and Tomley FM
Development of a novel yeast-based oral subunit vaccine against Eimeria spp. in chickens.
BBSRC responsive mode. 2016-2020.

Blake DP, Tomley FM and Nisbet A
Understanding population, genetic and antigenic diversity of the poultry red mite to improve prospects for successful vaccine development.
BEMB PhD studentship. 2016-2020.

Blake DP and Rushton J
Determining and explaining poultry slaughterhouse condemnations - a holistic approach.
BBSRC iCASE PhD studentship with Faccenda Foods Ltd. 2014 - 2019.

Selected and recent peer reviewed papers (from more than 130)

Blake DP, Knox J, Dehaeck B, Huntington B, Rathinam T, Ravipati V, Ayoade S, Gilbert W, Adebambo AO, Jatau ID, Raman M, Parker D, Rushton J, Tomley FM (2020) Re-calculating the cost of coccidiosis in chickens. Veterinary Research. 51:115. PMID: 32928271.

Karp-Tatham E, Küster T, Angelou A, Papadopoulos E, Nisbet AJ, Xia D, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2020) Phylogenetic inference using cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) in the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae in the United Kingdom relative to a European framework. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 7:553. PMID: 32974406.

Pastor-Fernández I, Kim S, Marugán-Hernández V, Soutter F, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2020) Vaccination with transgenic Eimeria tenella expressing Eimeria maxima AMA1 and IMP1 confers partial protection against high level E. maxima challenge in a broiler model of coccidiosis. Parasites & Vectors. 13:343. PMID: 32650837.

Buzdugan SN, Chang YM, Huntington B, Rushton J, Guitian J, Alarcon P, Blake DP (2020) Identification of production chain risk factors for slaughterhouse condemnation of broiler chickens. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 181:105036. PMID: 32505027.

Seale J, Swain J, Booth R, Blake DP (2019) A Cryptosporidium parvum genotype shift between week old and two week old calves following administration of a prophylactic antiprotozoal. Veterinary Parasitology. 273:32-35. PMID: 31442890.

Shah TM, Patel JG, Gohil TP, Blake DP, Joshi CG (2019) Interaction of gut microbes and host transcriptome modulates physiology and metabolism of full-sibs broilers with divergent feed conversion ratio. NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes. 5:24. PMID: 31552140.

Price DRG, Küster T, Øines Ø, Oliver M, Bartley K, Nunn F, Barbero JFL, Pritchard J, Karp-Tatham E, Hauge H, Blake DP, Tomley FM, Nisbet AJ (2019) Evaluation of vaccine delivery systems for inducing long-lived antibody responses to Dermanyssus gallinae antigen in laying hens. Avian Pathology. 48:S1, S60-S74. PMID: 31032631.

Macdonald SE, van Diemen PM, Martineau H, Stevens MP, Tomley FM, Stabler RA, Blake DP (2019) The impact of Eimeria tenella co-infection on Campylobacter jejuni colonisation of the chicken. Infection and Immunity. 87:e00772-18. PMID: 30510107.

Burgess STG, Bartley K, Nunn FN, Wright HW, Hughes M, Gemmell M, Haldenby S, Paterson S, Rombauts S, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Pritchard J, Schicht S, Strube C, Øines Ø, Van Leeuwen T, Van de Peer Y, Nisbet AJ (2018) Draft Genome Assembly of the Poultry Red Mite, Dermanyssus gallinae. Genome Announcements. 7: e01221-18. PMID: 30533782.

Boulton K, Nolan MJ, Wu Z, Psifidi A, Riggio V, Harman K, Bishop SC, Kaiser P, Abrahamsen MS, Hawken R, Watson KA, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Hume DA (2018) Phenotypic and genetic variation in the response of chickens to Eimeria tenella induced coccidiosis. Genetics Selection Evolution. 50:63. PMID: 30463512.

Boulton K, Nolan MJ, Bumstead N, Wu Z, Riggio V, Matika O, Harman K, Hocking PM, Hesketh P, Archer A, Bishop SC, Kaiser P, Tomley FM, Hume DA, Smith AL, Blake DP, Psifidi P (2018) Dissecting the Genomic Architecture of Resistance to Eimeria maxima Parasitism in the Chicken. Frontiers in Genetics. 9:528. PMID: 30534137.

Hinsu AT, Thakkar JR, Koringa PG, Vrba V, Jakhesara SJ, Psifidi A, Guitian J, Tomley FM, Rank DN, Raman M, Joshi CG, Blake DP (2018) Illumina next generation sequencing for the analysis of Eimeria populations in commercial broilers and indigenous chickens. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 5:176. PMID: 30105228.

Sakkas P, Oikeh I, Blake DP, Nolan MJ, Bailey RA, Oxley A, Rychlik I, Lietz G, Kyriazakis I (2018) Does selection for growth rate in broilers affect their resistance and tolerance to Eimeria maxima? Veterinary Parasitology. 258:88-98. PMID: 30105985.

Pandit R, Hinsu AT, Patel NV, Koringa PG, Jakhesara SJ, Thakkar JR, Shah TM, Limon G, Psifidi A, Guitian J, Hume DA, Tomley FM, Rank DN, Raman M, Tirumurugaan KG, Blake DP, Joshi CG (2018) Microbial diversity and community composition of caecal microbiota in commercial and indigenous Indian chickens determined using 16s rDNA amplicon sequencing. Microbiome. 6:115. PMID: 29935540.

Rosanowski SM, Banica M, Ellis E, Farrow E, Harwood C, Jordan B, James C, McKenna D, Fox M, Blake DP (2018) The molecular characterisation of Cryptosporidium species in relinquished dogs in Great Britain: a novel zoonotic risk? Parasitology Research. 117:1663-1667. PMID: 29637275.

Pastor-Fernández I, Kim S, Billington K, Bumstead J, Marugán-Hernández V, Küster T, Ferguson DJP, Vervelde L, Blake DP, Tomley FM (2018) Development of cross-protective Eimeria-vectored vaccines based on apical membrane antigens. International Journal for Parasitology. 48:505-518. PMID: 29524526.

Macdonald SE, Nolan MJ, Harman K, Boulton K, Hume DA, Tomley FM, Stabler RA, Blake DP (2017) Effects of Eimeria tenella infection on chicken caecal microbiome diversity, exploring variation associated with severity of pathology. PLoS One 12:e0184890. PMID: 28934262.

Nolan MJ, Unger M, Yeap Y-T, Rogers E, Millet I, Harman K, Fox M, Kalema-Zikusoka G, Blake DP (2017) Molecular characterisation of protist parasites in human-habituated mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), humans and livestock, from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Parasites and Vectors. 10: 340. PMID: 28720110.

Crotta M, Limon G, Blake DP, Guitian J (2017) Knowledge gaps in host-parasite interaction preclude accurate assessment of meat-borne exposure to Toxoplasma gondii. International Journal of Food Microbiology 261:95-101. PMID: 28139250.

Palmieri N, Shrestha A, Ruttkowski B, Beck T, Vogl C, Tomley F, Blake DP, Joachim A (2017) The genome of the protozoan parasite Cystoisospora suis and a reverse vaccinology approach to identify vaccine candidates. International Journal for Parasitology 47:189-202. PMID: 28161402.

Clark EL, Macdonald SE, Thenmozhi V, Kundu K, Garg R, Kumar S, Ayoade S, Fornace KM, Jatau ID, Moftah A, Nolan MJ, Sudhakar NR, Adebambo AO, Lawal IA, Zapata RA, Awuni JA, Chapman HD, Karimuribo E, Mugasa CM, Namangala B, Rushton J, Suo X, Thangaraj K, Rao ASRS, Tewari AK, Banerjee PS, Raj GD, Raman M, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2016) Cryptic Eimeria genotypes are common across the southern but not northern hemisphere. International Journal for Parasitology 46:537-544. PMID: 27368611.

Wu Z, Hu T, Rothwell L, Vervelde L, Kaiser P, Boulton K, Nolan MJ, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Hume DA (2016) Analysis of the function of IL-10 in chickens using specific neutralising antibodies and a sensitive capture ELISA. Developmental and Comparative Immunology 63:206-212. PMID: 27108075.

Blake DP, Clark EL, Macdonald SE, Thenmozhi V, Kundu K, Garg R, Jatau ID, Ayoade S, Kawahara F, Moftah A, Reid AJ, Adebambo AO, Álvarez-Zapata R, Srinivasa Rao ASR, Thangaraj K, Banerjee PS, Raj GD, Raman M, Tomley FM (2015) Population, genetic and antigenic diversity of the apicomplexan Eimeria tenella and their relevance to vaccine development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112:E5343–E5350. PMID: 26354122.

Nolan MJ, Tomley FM, Kaiser P and Blake DP (2015) Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) for Eimeria tenella replication – implications for experimental refinement and animal welfare. Parasitology International 64:464-470. PMID: 26141544.

Leopardi S, Blake D and Puechmaille SJ (2015). White-Nose Syndrome fungus introduced from Europe into North America. Current Biology 25:R217-R219.

Reid AJ, Blake DP, Ansari HR, Billington K, Browne HP, Bryant J, Dunn M, Hung SS, Kawahara F, Miranda-Saavedra D, Malas TB, Mourier T, Naghra H, Nair M, Otto TD, Rawlings ND, Rivailler P, Sanchez-Flores A, Sanders M, Subramaniam C, Tay Y-L, Woo Y, Wu X, Barrell B, Dear PH, Doerig C, Gruber A, Ivens AC, Parkinson J, Rajandream M-A, Shirley MW, Wan K-L, Berriman M, Tomley FM and Pain A (2014) Genomic analysis of the causative agents of coccidiosis in domestic chickens. Genome Research 24:1676-1685.


Blake DP, Smith AL and Shirley MW. Vaccine. PCT/GB2011/051456

Damer teaches veterinary parasitology in various modules on the BVetMed, BVetMed Graduate Accelerated, Vet Nursing, BSc Bioveterinary Science and MSc One Health courses. He supervises PhD theses within the field of molecular parasitology and genetics, as well as research projects on several RVC courses, a number of which have resulted in student presentations at conferences and publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Damer is a module leader on the One Health Masters course (Infectious Disease Emergence).

Damer is Editor-in-Chief for the journal Avian Pathology.

Damer currently supports the Science Learning Centre, assisting school science teachers develop exciting and relevant resources for school children of all ages.

  • Development of a poultry vaccine platform based on transgenic coccidia parasites and evaluation of immunoprotection against necrotic enteritis

    The sustainability of poultry meat and egg global production, paramount to respond the worldwide demand for food, is challenged by poultry enteric diseases such as coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis.

    his project aimed to develop a vaccine platform based on Eimeria parasites to protect chickens against pathogens of different origin. The first use to generate a prototype and evaluate a specific product against the re-emerging disease necrotic enteritis is expected to have future applications that could have a direct impact in human health by the targeting of zoonotic organisms that transfer disease from chickens to human, and which have importance in both high income and low-and-middle income countries (e.g. Campylobacter, Salmonella).

  • Optimising response to oral yeast-based vaccines against coccidiosis in chickens

    We aim to improve Saccharomyces cerevisiae as an oral vaccine vector platform for use with poultry, focusing on the economically significant disease coccidiosis. We have developed a yeast-delivery platform in which antigens from Eimeria can be expressed in a stable, non-secreted form, with the yeast itself acting as transport system and adjuvant.

  • SweetAnimals

    The SweetAnimal project studies the presence of sugar-binding receptors in the genomes of a variety of farmed animals, how these differ between species, what ligands expressed on pathogens they bind, and how this information can be used to develop carbohydrate-based vaccines.

  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) One Health Poultry Hub

    With integrated streams of social, economic, biological, mathematical and policy-led research, we are co-producing detailed knowledge on the biological, structural and socio-economic factors that shape networks of chicken production and distribution. The RVC-led UKRI GCRF One Health Poultry Hub brings together leading laboratory, clinical, veterinary and social scientists, as well as skilled communications experts, programme support staff and external stakeholders.  

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