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BSI Comparative and Veterinary Immunology Group: Bringing together human and animal health

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The BSI Comparative and Veterinary Immunology Group (CVIG) brings together veterinary, human and mouse immunologists and provides a forum for discussion, collaboration and exchange of ideas. Here, the team sets out the group’s recent activities and some of the fascinating questions that have arisen from these. 

‘Mice lie and monkeys exaggerate.’ You may have heard this quote before and it is attributed to the vaccinologist David Weiner (The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA). One could argue that this statement is itself an exaggeration, but we from the CVIG think it conveys an important message. And if you ignore the underlying allegation (that we are using the wrong animal models!), it leads to a series of highly relevant questions. What makes immune responses different between species? Why does pathogen X make species Y severely sick whereas species Z is hardly affected? It is these questions that keep us comparative and veterinary immunologists busy – and, we are passionate about discussing them! 

A mix of comparative themes

Since its relaunch in 2018, CVIG has organised a series of meetings all centring around the comparison of the immune system between species, and differences in responses. Previous themes include human and veterinary antibody discovery, non-conventional T cells, conventional T cells in health and disease, and peculiarities of birds in a meeting on avian immunology. In 2023, we went back to a cross-species comparison focusing on dendritic cells, monocytes and macrophages. This year, we organised a meeting on organoids and 3D cell cultures, looking at developments in these models across different animal species. 

All these meetings featured a mix of talks showcasing knowledge on mice and humans, but also livestock and companion animal species. Presenters and delegates alike told us that this was all fascinating and really made them think outside the box. We are excited by the potential wider applications of this knowledge too.

One Health – monitoring zoonoses 

The One Health paradigm encompasses the interconnectedness of human health, animal health, and the environment, advocating for interdisciplinary collaboration to address multifaceted health challenges. Veterinary research plays a central role in the One Health framework by elucidating zoonotic disease dynamics, monitoring emerging infectious threats and advocating for sustainable environmental practices.

The emergence of zoonotic diseases, exemplified by outbreaks such as avian influenza, Ebola virus disease and COVID-19, has demonstrated just how essential proactive surveillance and coordinated response efforts are. By embracing a One Health approach, it is possible to mitigate emerging health threats, promote animal welfare and safeguard human populations from infectious diseases.

Translational research

Large animal models can be indispensable tools in biomedical research, offering physiological, anatomical and genetic similarities to humans. For example, pigs were used to predict vaccine effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Holzer et al. (2021) showed that the pig is an excellent model for understanding how best to apply mAbs as therapy for humans to treat influenza.

The use of large animal models in translational research can bridge the gap between bench and bedside, enabling preclinical assessments of therapeutic interventions and elucidating disease pathophysiology. Large animal models can enable us to expedite the translation of scientific discoveries into clinically relevant applications, thereby improving human healthcare outcomes.

Future plans

We are developing the next series of CVIG events, and plans are also in place to bid for themed sessions at other BSI meetings and Congress. If this has piqued your interest and you have further suggestions, please do reach out to any one of the committee members.


Dr Rebecca McLean and Dr Wilhelm Gerner, on behalf of the CVIG Committee (Dr Lindert Benedictus, Dr Kate Sutton, Dr Amanda Gibson, Dr Ambre Chapius).