Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Ecosystems Health, Host-Pathogen Interactions and Vaccinology, Safe and Sustainable Food

Fiona is Professor of Experimental Parasitology.

Fiona graduated in Bacteriology and Virology at Manchester University (1977) where she also completed her PhD on vaccinia virus DNA polymerase. After four years as a post-doc in virology at Cambridge Vet School and Department of Pathology, Fiona joined the Houghton Poultry Research Station (later the Institute for Animal Health) in 1984 to develop fowlpoxvirus as a replicating vaccine vector for important viral diseases of chickens including infectious bronchitis and Newcastle Disease. Since the late 1980's Fiona has worked on protozoan parasites (Eimeria species) of poultry with a focus on understanding how these parasites recognise and invade target host cells.  Alongside basic research, she has applied genomic, proteomic and transgenic approaches to Eimeria species and continues to have a strong interest in the development of new types of vaccines for poultry infectious diseases, working in collaboration with industry.

During her time at the IAH,  Fiona held senior managment posts including Head of the Division of Microbiology (2005-2010) and Deputy Director of Science (2008-2010).  She joined the RVC at the end of 2010 as Professor of Experimental Parasitology and became head of Pathology and Pathogen Biology in 2014.

Protozoan parasites of the genus Eimeria cause coccidiosis, a severe enteritis that affects many livestock species and is most serious in poultry.  The parasites are transmitted by the faecal-oral route and they rapidly invade epithelial cells of the gut, causing severe damage and leading to the build-up of heavy parasite loads in the environment.  In the absence of measures to control Eimeria parasites, outbreaks of severe clinical coccidiosis with high morbidity and mortality are inevitable.

Fiona's research aims to understand the interaction of Eimeria parasites with the chicken in order to develop better control through vaccination.  Much of her research has focused on the molecular mechanisms of parasite invasion and the characterisation of classes of proteins, derived from different parasite subcellular compartments (parasite surface and secretory organelles), involved in the process.  Several have been evaluated as potential vaccine antigens in chickens.  She has been involved in studies on the cellular invasion of related apicomplexan protozoan parasites through collaboration with a number of other laboratories. Together with Dr  Damer Blake at the RVC, she is integrating studies on Eimeria population diversity to predict the likely responses of parasites in the field to the introduction of subunit or vectored-vaccines, and is developing the use of Eimeria parasites as novel vaccine vectors for poultry with support from BBSRC and industry. More recently the group has begun to work on the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, an emerging ectoparasitic disease that is causing severe welfare problems in laying hens throughout Europe.

Current projects in the lab are as follows:

BEMB PhD scholarship: Control of poultry red mite: expression and adminstration of vaccine antigens to poultry 2012-2016 £100K

BEMB pump-priming grant: Transcriptome and proteome resources for the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae 2012. £10K

Swiss National Foundation, Early post-doc mobility fellow: Development of a new generation vaccine against D. gallinae 2014-2016.

BBSRC Industrial Partnering Award: An integrated model of host-parasite interactions in coccidian parasites 2014-2017 £342K

BBSRC Animal Research Club:Understanding resistance and differential vaccine responses to Eimeria in the chicken: novel biomarkers and genetic control 2014-2017 £340K .

BBSRC Farm Animal Disease and Health Initiative: Controlling enteric pathogens of poutry: host-microbiota interactions, risk assessment and effective management interventions 2014-2017 £633K

European Commission Horizon 2020 Tackling Losses from Terrestrial Animal Diseases: Strengthening Animal Production and Health Through the Immune Response (SAPHIR).  2015-2018. £595K

European Commission Horizon 2020 Tackling Losses from Terrestrial Animal Diseases: Vaccines for animal parasites (PARAGONE)  2015-2018. £332K

RVC/Brookes University PhD scholarship: Investigating Eimeria invasion and growth using novel whole cell 3D imaging 2015-2018

BEMB PhD scholarship: Understanding populatoin, genetic and antigenic diversity of the poultry red mite to improve prospects for successful vaccine development 2016-2020. £110K

BBSRC Response Mode: Development of a novel yeast-based oral subunit vaccine against Eimeria spp. in chickens 2017-2020.  £393K


  1. Clark EL, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2016) Are Eimeria genetically diverse and does it matter? Trends Parasitol. 2016 Sep 1. pii: S1471-4922(16)30124-6. doi: 10.1016/

  2. Marugan-Hernandez V, Cockle C, Macdonald S, Pegg E, Crouch C, Blake DP, Tomley FM (2016) Viral proteins expressed in the protozoan parasite Eimeria tenella are detected by the chicken immune system. Parasit Vectors. 2016 Aug 23;9:463. doi: 10.1186/s13071-016-1756-2.

  3. Pritchard J, Küster T, George D, Sparagano O, Tomley F.(2016) Impeding movement of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae Vet Parasitol. 2016 Jul 30;225:104-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.06.006. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

  4. 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, Álvarez Zapata R, Awuni JA, Chapman HD, Karimuribo E, Mugasa CM, Namangala B, Rushton J, Suo X, Thangaraj K, Srinivasa Rao AS, Tewari AK, Banerjee PS, Dhinakar Raj G, Raman M, Tomley FM, Blake DP. Cryptic Eimeria genotypes are common across the sourthern but not northern hemisphere. Int J Parasitol. 2016 Aug;46(9):537-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2016.05.006. Epub 2016 Jun 29.

  5. 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 Dev Comp Immunol. 2016 Oct;63:206-12. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2016.04.016. Epub 2016 Apr 22.

  6. 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 AS, Thangaraj K, Banerjee PS, Dhinakar-Raj G, Raman M, Tomley FM (2015). Population, genetic, and antigenic diversity of the apicomplexan Eimeria tenella and their relevance to vaccine development.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Sep 22;112(38):E5343-50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1506468112. Epub 2015 Sep 9.
  7. Nolan MJ, Tomley FM, Kaiser P, Blake DP (2015). Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) for Eimeria tenella replication--Implications for experimental refinement and animal welfare.Parasitol Int. 2015 Oct;64(5):464-70. doi: 10.1016/j.parint.2015.06.010. Epub 2015 Jul 2.
  8. Pritchard J, Kuster T, Sparagano O, Tomley F(2015). Understanding the biology and control of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae: a review. Avian Pathol. 2015;44(3):143-53. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2015.1030589.
  9. Rao ASRS, Tomley F, Blake D (2015).Understanding Chicken Walks on n x n Grid: Hamiltonian Paths, Discrete Dynamics and Rectifiable Paths. Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences (Wiley-Blackwell) DOI: 10.1002/mma.3301
  10. Reid AJ, Blake DP, Ansari HR, Billington K, Browne HP, Bryant JM, Dunn M, Hung SS, Kawahara F, Miranda-Saavedra D, Malas T, Mourier T, Naghra H, Nair M, Otto TD, Rawlings ND, Rivailler P, Sanchez-Flores A, Sanders M, Subramaniam C, Tay YL, Woo Y, Wu X, Barrell B, Dear PH, Doerig C, Gruber A, Ivens AC, Parkinson J, Rajandream MA, Shirley MW, Wan KL, Berriman M, Tomley FM, Pain A (2014) Genomic analysis of the causative agents of coccidiosis in domestic chickens. Genome Res. 2014 Jul 11. pii: gr.168955.113.
  11. Blake DP, Tomley FM (2014) Securing poultry production from the ever-present Eimeria challenge. Trends Parasitol. 2014 Jan;30(1):12-9
  12. Kumar S, Garg R, Moftah A, Clark EL, Macdonald SE, Chaudhry AS, Sparagano O, Banerjee PS, Kundu K, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2014) An optimised protocol for molecular identification of Eimeria from chickens. Vet Parasitol. 2014 Jan 17;199(1-2):24-31
  13. Chapman HD, Barta JR, Blake D, Gruber A, Jenkins M, Smith NC, Suo X, Tomley FM (2013) A selective review of advances in coccidiosis research. Adv Parasitol. 2013;83:93-171
  14. Raj GD, Aarthi S, Selvabharathi R, Raman M, Blake DP, Tomley FM (2013) Real-time PCR-based quantification of Eimeria genomes: a method to outweigh underestimation of genome numbers due to PCR inhibition. Avian Pathol. 2013 Aug;42(4):304-8
  15. Oakes RD, Kurian D, Bromley E, Ward C, Lal K, Blake DP, Reid AJ, Pain A, Sinden RE, Wastling JM, Tomley FM(2013) The rhoptry proteome of Eimeria tenella sporozoites. Int J Parasitol. 2013 Feb;43(2):181-8
  16. Katrib M, Ikin RJ, Brossier F, Robinson M, Slapetova I, Sharman PA, Walker RA, Belli SI, Tomley FM, Smith NC (2012). Stage-specific expression of protease genes in the apicomplexan parasite, Eimeria tenella. BMC Genomics 2012 Dec 7;13:685
  17. Cowper B, Matthews S, Tomley F (2012), The molecular basis for the distinct host and tissue tropisms of coccidian parasites. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2012 Nov;186(1):1-10
  18. Su H, Liu X, Yan W, Shi T, Zhao X, Blake DP, Tomley FM, Suo X (2012). piggyback transposon-mediated transgenesis in the apicomplexan parasite Eimeria tenellaPLoS One. 2012;7(6):e40075
  19. Blake DP, Alias H, Billington KJ, Clark EL, Mat-Isa MN, Mohamad AF, Mohd-Amin MR, Tay YL, Smith AL, Tomley FM, Wan KL (2012). EmaxDB: Availability of a first draft genome sequence for the apicomplexan Eimeria maxima. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2012 Jul;184(1):48-51
  20. Clark JD, Oakes RD, Redhead K, Crouch CF, Francis KJ, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2012)  Eimeria species parasites as novel vaccine delivery vectors: Anti-Campylobacter jejuni protective immunity induced by Eimeria tenella - delivered cjaA. Vaccine 2012 Mar 30;30(16):2683-8
  21. Wass MN, Stanway R, Blagborough AM, Lal K, Prieto JH, Raine D, Sternberg MJ, Talman AM, Tomley F, Yates J, Sinden RE (2012) Proteomic analysis of Plasmodium in the mosquito: progress and pitfalls  Parasitology Feb 16:1-15
  22. Amiruddin N, Lee XW, Blake DP, Suzuki Y, Tay YL, Lim LS, Tomley FM, Watanabe J, Sugimoto C, Wan KL (2012)  Characterisation of full-length cDNA sequences provides insights into the Eimeria tenella transcriptome  BMC Genomics Jan 13;13(1):21
  23. Lai L, Bumstead J, Liu Y, Garnett J, Campanero-Rhodes MA, Blake DP, Palma AS, Chai W, Ferguson DJP, Simpson P, Feizi T, Tomley FM, Matthews S.(2011) The role of sialyl glycan recognition in host tissue tropism of the avian parasite Eimeria tenella PLoS Pathogens 2011.7(10) e1002296
  24. Chow YP, Wan KL, Blake D, Tomley F, Nathan S. Immunogenic Eimeria tenella glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored surface antigens (SAGs) induce inflammatory responses in avian macrophages. PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25233
  25. Marugan-Hernandez V, Alvarez-Garcia G, Tomley F, Hemphill A, Regidor-Cerrillo J, Ortega-Mora LM (2011) Identification of novel rhoptry proteins in Neospora caninum by LC-MS-MS analysis of subcellular fractions J. Proteomics 74, 629-42
  26. Aarthi S, Raj GD, Raman M, Blake D, Subramaniam C, Tomley F (2011) Expressed sequence tags from Eimeria brunetti – preliminary analysis and functional annotation. Parasitol Res 108, 1059-62


Top of page