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Plenary Speakers

Marcel Behr

Dr. Behr is Professor of Medicine at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Mycobacterial Genomics.  He was the founding Director of the McGill International TB Centre which he led from 2012 to 2018.  He is the Associate Program Leader of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and co-Director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4). He is also Division Chief, McGill Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Behr trained at the University of Toronto, Queen’s, McGill and Stanford.  His work has been recognized by election into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Academy of Microbiology.  Dr. Behr’s lab uses bacterial genomic methodologies to study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of tuberculosis and other mycobacterial diseases.

Five learning points

The Tortoise and the Snail: Is Science on MAP and Crohn’s Moving Slowly or Very Slowly?

  1. Studies looking for an association between Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP) and Crohn’s disease should use validated laboratory methodologies. 

  2. Labs using these methodologies to look for MAP in human samples should subject themselves to rigorous quality control, to ensure that their findings are robust.

  3. Clinical trials that monitor response to antibiotics do not formally address the MAP hypothesis; rather, they ask whether a defined treatment makes patients better. 

  4. Clinical trials that have embedded validated laboratory techniques can examine whether there is an association between MAP status and treatment response.

  5. Clinical trials that screen by MAP status and then randomize patients could provide evidence of a treatment benefit in MAP positive patients; to my knowledge, such trials have not been done.

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Kumi De Silva

Dr Kumudika (Kumi) de Silva is an immunologist at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney and received her doctorate from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. Her research career started with an interest in immune cell migration in response to oxidised lipids in atherosclerosis and subsequently in burn injury in humans, and now focuses on immune cell responses to infectious diseases in ruminants. Dr de Silva’s research centres around cellular immune changes during infection with an emphasis on understanding nuances that enable some animals to avoid infection while others succumb to disease. Her work has identified biological markers that can be used to predict future disease outcome in ovine paratuberculosis as well as dysfunctional immunity in sheep that do not respond to vaccination. Current research projects include investigation of cellular immune responses that drive a healthy outcome for livestock as well as testing a vaccine prototype to determine its suitability for ruminants. Dr de Silva is Editor-in-Chief for the International Association for Paratuberculosis.

Dr de Silva is a strong advocate for equity and active inclusion. She co-founded, and is inaugural Chair, of the Mosaic Network at the University of Sydney which aims to empower and support staff from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and to influence cultural change at the University and beyond. She is also a member of the University of Sydney’s Self-Assessment Team for the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena SWAN pilot program for which the University recently received a Bronze award.

Five learning points

  1. Exposure to MAP can result in a spectrum of outcomes ranging from severe clinical disease to resilience to infection

  2. Early immune responses can be used to identify animals that have the potential to withstand disease progression

  3. Classification of disease outcome is important when assessing biomarkers for protective immunity

  4. A combination of cellular and molecular biomarkers is required to define resilience to paratuberculosis

  5. Immunological profiles of resilience could be used for diagnostics as well as for improving vaccine design

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Frank Griffin

Frank Griffin (BA (Mod), PhD (dublin), ONZM, FRSNZ)

Frank graduated BA(Mod) (1967) and PhD TCD Vet School (1970). He is currently Emeritus Professor-in-Immunology at the University of Otago, which he joined as a lecturer in 1973.  Frank is Director of Disease Research Limited: a private diagnostic laboratory associated with the University of Otago. He is the author of more than 145 refereed and 60 non-refereed scientific publications. He has developed vaccines and laboratory assays to diagnose Yersiniosis, Tuberculosis (TB) and Paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease).Current research attempts to modulate infections to become Nature’s Vaccines. His awards include; NZ Deer Industry Award (1990); ONZM (2003); Pickering Medal (2010); FRSNZ (2012). 

Five learning points

  1. Complex diseases caused by mycobacterial pathogens will not be resolved by the application of singular simple remedies.

  2. The economic impacts of infectious diseases are cumulative and should incorporate the added management costs, combined with overall production losses.

  3. Effective control of chronic infectious disease in livestock demand co-incident  remediation strategies, supported fully by producers, scientists, veterinarians and regulators.

  4. For cost-effective control of chronic infectious disease in farm animal,  equal contributions are  made; through altered management (farmers), test performance (laboratories), epidemiology (veterinarians) and remedial interventions (regulators).

  5. Composite strategies for disease control are synergistic, where the sum of the parts are greater than the whole.

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Marian Price Carter

Marian Price-Carter is a molecular biologist working as part of the TB diagnostic team at AgResearch Ltd. in Palmerston North New Zealand (NZ).  In collaboration with epidemiologists at OSPRI TBfree, a farmer driven organization formed to control bovine tuberculosis, this team detect and characterize Mycobacterium bovis and other mycobacterial infections in NZ livestock and wildlife.  Marian uses her graduate training in biophysical chemistry and her postdoctoral training in bacterial genetics to develop, establish and employ molecular methods that help to efficiently detect and type M. bovis and other mycobacteria, including routine use of whole genome sequencing to guide control efforts.

Five learning points

  1. Simple test and cull strategies that have led to eradication of bovine tuberculosis from livestock in other parts of the world are hampered in New Zealand (NZ) by reinfection from a wildlife reservoir.   

  2. OSPRI TBfree, a farmer driven organization, has greatly reduced M. bovis herd prevalence by taking an active, all-inclusive approach where they monitor and control infection both in livestock herds and wildlife, and regulate movement of stock. 

  3. Different types of M. bovis are regionally localized in NZ and for multiple decades strain typing has enhanced the efficiency of control by guiding OSPRI in the movement control of livestock, control within herds and enhanced wildlife control in the area of new herd infections. 

  4. The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) lineages that result from whole genome sequencing (WGS) analyses are proving to be far superior to previously employed typing assays for guiding control efforts.  

  5. Information from WGS about shared common ancestors has been helpful for clearly defining relationships and movement of NZ M. bovis, M. pinnipedii and MAP types.

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Herman Barkema

Dr. Herman Barkema is an NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle at the University of Calgary with a joint appointment in the Department of Community Health Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Barkema’s research program focuses on prevention and control of diseases in dairy herds, including Johne’s disease. He has published more than 350 scientific manuscripts and book chapters, supervised 50 graduate students and has lectured all over the world. Herman leads the Antimicrobial Resistance – One Health Consortium, One Health at UCalgary, the University of Calgary Biostatistics Centre, and the Alberta Johne’s Disease Initiative.

Five learning points

  1. Calf-to-calf transmission has been ignored in Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) control, potentially contributing to a lack of success in most control Johne’s disease (JD) programs .

  2. The genetic basis of susceptibility to MAP infection needs to be sufficiently characterized.

  3. Although new MAP tests are available, they must be well validated well before being used in the field.

  4. Good communication between veterinarian and farmer is essential when controlling JD.

  5. The motivation to adopt JD control programs should not be limited to the potential association with Crohn’s disease, as the economic losses JD causes to the dairy industry justify its control.

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Vivek Kapur

Vivek Kapur is Professor of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in the Department of Animal Science and Huck Distinguished Chair in Global Health.  He is also Associate Director for strategic initiatives at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State.  He is also appointed as Professor of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Tanzania.


As an early adopter in the field of microbial genomics, Prof. Kapur’s research team has led the complete genome sequencing of some of the most important pathogens that cause diseases in animals and humans and conducted related investigations in infectious diseases and genomics.  These studies have led to key insights on the evolution, physiology, and mechanisms of pathogenesis of these organisms, as well as the identification of numerous targets for diagnostic test development and vaccines.


Prof. Kapur trained in veterinary medicine at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, received a Ph.D. in Veterinary Sciences from Penn State, and conducted post-doctoral research at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  He has previously held faculty and leadership positions at Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Medical School, where he served as Director of the Biomedical Genomics Center.  

Five learning points

  1. The control of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is achieved primarily through better management to reduce opportunities for introduction or within-herd transmission, regular testing to identify infected animals, and removal of infected individuals

  2. In low-and-middle-income countries where the disease is endemic and dairy intensification is driving increase in prevalence, the testing and removal of MAP infected animals is economically and socially unfeasible

  3. While commercial vaccines exist, vaccination for prevention (or treatment) of MAP infection in cattle is not widely practiced, in part because of the potential for interference with tuberculin-based testing for bovine tuberculosis

  4. Newer generations of molecularly defined tests have been developed that show considerable promise in replacing tuberculin-based tests for TB diagnosis

  5. Learning from the experience in the TB field, the next generation of successful MAP vaccines should consider companion diagnostics that enable differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals

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