Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

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

Fiona is Director of the UKRI GCRF One Health Poultry Hub and Professor of Experimental Parasitology

Fiona graduated in Bacteriology and Virology at Manchester University (1977) where she also completed her PhD on vaccinia virus. 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) as a research fellow. Since the late 1980's Fiona has worked on protozoan parasites (Eimeria species) of poultry with a focus on how they recognise and invade the gut of the chicken, their interaction with host immune mediators, gut microbiota and food-borne zoonoses.  She is also involved in efforts to develop more effective control of Dermanysssus gallinae (the poultry red mite).  Alongside basic research, she has applied genomic, proteomic and transgenic technologies for poultry parasites and has a strong interest in the development of new types of vaccines for poultry infectious diseases. 


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 coccidiosis are inevitable, with occasional high morbidity and mortality, and continual impacts on animal health, welfare and production efficiency.

Fiona's research aims to understand the interaction of Eimeria parasites with the host to develop better control of disease. 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 are promising vaccine antigens.  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 developing the use of Eimeria parasites as novel vaccine vectors . More recently the group has begun to work on broader aspects of gut health, microbiomes and parasite-microbe interactions in the chicken intestines,  and also on the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, an emerging ectoparasitic disease that is causing severe welfare problems in laying hens.

Current/recent projects are as follows:

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 population, 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

BBSRC Industrial Partnering Award: The role of intereukin-10 (IL-10) in the regulation of innate immunity in the domestic chicken 2018-2021. £399K

GCRF Institutional Accelerator Award 1: Accelerating impact of RVC poultry health projects in South Asia 2016. £60K

GCRF Institutional Accelerator Award 2: Accelerating impact of RVC poultry health projects in South Asia 2017. £40K

RVC Concept Development Partnership: £159K

UKRI GCRF Inception Grant 2018-2019: £180K

UKRI GCRF Interdisciplinary Research Hub Award: The One Health Poultry Hub 2019-2024 £18.2M



  1. Price DRG, Küster T, Øines Ø, Margaret Oliver E, 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 Pathol. 2019 Apr 29:1-44. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2019.1612514

  2. Pastor-Fernández I, Pegg E, Macdonald SE, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Marugán-Hernández V. (2019) Laboratory growth and genetic manipulation of Eimeria tenella Curr Protoc Microbiol. 2019 Feb 27:e81. doi: 10.1002/cpmc.81.

  3. Boulton K, Nolan MJ, Wu Z, Riggio V, Matika O, Harman K, Hocking PM, Bumstead N, Hesketh P, Archer A, Bishop SC, Kaiser P, Tomley FM, Hume DA, Smith AL, Blake DP, Psifidi A (2018) Dissecting the genomic architecture of resistance to Eimeria maxima parasitism in the chicken. Front Genet. 9:528. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00528. eCollection 2018

  4. Burgess STG, Bartley K, Nunn F, 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.  Microbiol Resour Announc. 2018 Nov 8;7(18). pii: e01221-18. doi: 10.1128/MRA.01221-18. eCollection 2018 Nov.

  5. Macdonald SE, van Diemen PM, Martineau H, Stevens MP, Tomley FM, Stabler RA, Blake DP (2019). Impact of Eimeria tenella coinfection on Campylobacter jejuni colonisation of the chicken. Infect Immun. 87(2). pii: e00772-18. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00772-18.

  6. 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.Genet Sel Evol 50:63doi: 10.1186/s12711-018-0433-7

  7. 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 popullations in commercial broilers and indigenous chickens.  Front Vet Sci doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00176

  8. Tomley FM, Sparagano O (2018)  Spotlight on avian pathology: Red mite, a serious emergent problem in layer hens.  Avian Pathol doi: 10.1080/03079457.2018.1490493.

  9. Pandit RJ, 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 determine using 16s rDNA amplicon sequencing.  Microbiome  doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0501-9.

  10. Pastor-Fernandez I, Kim S, Billington K, Bumstead J, Marugan-Hernandez V, Kuster T, Ferguson DJP, Vervelde L, Blake DP, Tomley FM (2018) Development of cross-protective Eimeria-vectored vaccines based on apical membrane antigens.  Int J Parasitol doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2018.01.033

  11. Marugan-Hernandez V, Fiddy R, Nurse-Francis J, Smith O, Pritchard L, Tomley FM (2017) Characterization of novel microneme adhesive repeats (MAR) in Eimeria tenella. Parasit Vectors. 2017 Oct 17;10(1):491. doi: 10.1186/s13071-017-2454-4.

  12. Blake DP, Pastor-Fernández I, Nolan MJ, Tomley FM (2017) Recombinant anticoccidial vaccines – a cup half full?  Infect Genet Evol. 2017 Oct 7;55:358-365. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2017.10.009

  13. 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. 2017 Sep 21;12(9):e0184890. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184890

  14. Kundu K, Garg R, Kumar S, Mandal M, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Banerjee PS (2017) Humoral and cytokine response elicited during immunisation with recombinant immune mapped protein-1 (EtIMP-1) and oocysts of Eimeria tenella. Vet Parasitol 244:44-53 doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2017.07.025

  15. Marugan-Hernandez V, Long E, Blake D, Crouch C, Tomley F (2017)  Eimeria tenella protein trafficking: differential regulation of secretion versus surface tethering during the life cycle.  Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 4;7(1):4557. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-04049-1

  16. 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. Int J Parasitol doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2016.11.007

  17. Clark EL, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2017) Are Eimeria genetically diverse and does it matter?  Trends Parasitol. Trends Parasitol. 2017 Mar;33(3):231-241. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Sep 1.

  18. Prakashbabu CB, Thenmozhi V, Limon G, Kundu K, Kumar S, Garg R, Clark EL, Srinivasa Rao AS, Raj DG, Raman M,Banerje PS, Tomley FM, Guitian J, Blake DP (2017)  Eimeria species occurrence varies between geographic regions and poultry production systems and may influence parasite genetic diversity. Vet Parasitol 233:62-72 doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.12.003

  19. Pegg E, Doyle K, Clark EL, Jatau I, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2016) Application of a new PCR-RFLP panel suggests a restricted population structure for Eimeria tenella in UK and Irish chickens. Vet Parasitol 229:60-67 doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.09.018

  20. Morrison WI, Tomley FM (2016) Development of vaccines for parasitic diseases of animals: challenges and opportunities.  Parasite Immunol 38:707-708 doi: 10.1111/pim.12398

  21. 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

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

  23. 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. Int J Parasitol. 2016 Aug;46(9):537-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2016.05.006.

  24. Jatau ID, Lawal IA, Kwaga JK, Tomley FM, Blake DP, Nok AJ (2016) Three operational taxonomic units of Eimeria are common in Nigerian chickens and may undermine effective molecular diagnosis of coccidiosis. BMC Vet Res. 2016 Jun 4;12:86. doi: 10.1186/s12917-016-0713-9.

  25. 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

  26. Blake DP, Clark EL, Macdonald SE, Thenmozhi V, Kundu K, Garg R, Jatau ID, Ayoade S, Kawahara F, Moftah A, Reid AJ, Adebambo AO, Alvarez 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.

  27. Kundu K, Banerjee PS, Garg R, Kumar S, Mandal M, Maurya PS, Tomley F, Blake D (2015) Cloning and sequencing of beta-tubulin and internal transcribed spacer-2 (ITS-2) of Eimeria tenella isolate from India.  J Parasit Dis. 2015 Sep;39(3):539-44. doi: 10.1007/s12639-013-0392-4.

  28. 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. Parasitol Int. 2015 Oct;64(5):464-70. doi: 10.1016/j.parint.2015.06.010.

  29. Pritchard J, Kuester T, Sparagano O, Tomley F (2015) Understanding the biology and control of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae.  Avian Pathol. 2015;44(3):143-53. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2015.1030589.

  30. 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 Oct;24(10):1676-85. doi: 10.1101/gr.168955.113

  31. Rao ASRS, Tomley FM, Blake DP (2014) Understanding chicken walks on n x n grid: Hamiltonian paths, discrete dynamics and rectifiable paths.  Mathematical Methods in the applied Sciences 38 doi: 10.1002/mma.3301

  32. Blake DP, Tomley FM (2014) Securing poultry production from the ever-present Eimeria challenge. Trends Parasitol. 2014 Jan;30(1):12-9. doi: 10.1016/

  33. 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 doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2013.09.026.

  34. 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. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-407705-8.00002-1.

  35. 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. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2013.790531.

  36. 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. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2012.10.024.

  37. 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. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-685

  38. 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. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2012.08.007

  39. Su H, Liu X, Yan W, Shi T, Zhao X, Blake DP, Tomley FM, Suo X (2012).  piggyBac transposon-mediated transgenesis in the apicomplexan parasite Eimeria tenella.  PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e40075. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040075

  40. 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. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2012.03.004.

  41. Clark JD, Oakes RD, Redhead K, Crouch CF, Tomley FM, Blake DB (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. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.02.002

  42. Wass MN, Stanway R, Blagborough AM, Lal K, Prieto JH, Raine D, Sternberg KN, Talman AM, Tomley F, Yates J 3rd, Sinden RE (2012) Proteomic analysis of Plasmodium in the mosquito: progress and pitfalls. Parasitology. 2012 Aug;139(9):1131-45. doi: 10.1017/S0031182012000133.

  43. Amirruddin 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 2012 Jan 13;13:21. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-21.

  44. 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 Pathog. 2011 Oct;7(10):e1002296. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002296.

  45. Chow YP, Wan KL, Blake D, Tomley F, Nathan S (2011)  Immunogenic Eimeria tenella glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored surface antigens (SAGs) induce inflammatory responses in avian macrophages.  PLoS One 2011;6(9):e25233. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025233.

  46. 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. 2011 May 1;74(5):629-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2011.02.004

  47. 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. 2011 Apr;108(4):1059-62. doi: 10.1007/s00436-010-2182-6

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