Application of Molecular Biology in Veterinary Medicine

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In veterinary medicine, molecular biology has been applied to the diagnosis of parasitic and infectious disease, vaccine and therapeutic protein production, gene therapy, genetic background on disease resistance and genotyping of pathogens. Molecular biology is a term designated for manipulation of DNA, RNA, Protein and related molecules in the laboratory.

At this time molecular epidemiology has become increasingly important because scientists have to know not only the diagnosis of some diseases but, also the molecular basis of the natural history of the disease.

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The manipulations of DNA can be used for a variety of purposes, including mapping, cloning, expression studies, creation of novel products, and achieving a better understanding of heredity and the genetic component of phenotypic variation.

RFLP techniques have been used to study the patterns of virus in different populations of chickens, genetic defects in bovine embryos and commercial broiler lines.

Molecular biology also has been used in small and large animal clinics as an excellent tool in ophthalmology, such as gene therapy and for diagnosis and prevention of equine infectious diseases.

In the field of preventive veterinary medicine, the molecular biology can be applied to discover the identification of microorganisms and diagnosis of virus, bacteria, protozoa and helminthes, molecular studies, focusing stuff of epidemiology, evolutionary biology of microorganisms, host resistance, vaccine development and chemotherapy.

Vaccine Development

Development of vaccines for protozoan and helminthes parasites of livestock has not been successful. This is because of difficulties encountered in identifying antigens which induce protective immune responses and in obtaining sufficient quantities of vaccine trials. The use of monoclonal antibodies and genetic engineering technologies could provide the essential tools to help overcome these difficulties.

African swine fever, a disease for which there is neither effective prophylaxis nor vaccine, could be effectively conquered with the application of biotechnology techniques used in the production of vaccines through the use of monoclonal antibodies and genetic engineering.

In the last few years, it has become possible to sequence the whole genome of key parasites and related organisms, such as Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans Sequencing Consortium). The Schistosome genome project will provide information useful for research on veterinary parasites such as Fasciola hepatica, and the Leishmania.

Development of vaccines against helminth parasites like cysticercosis and and hydatid disease.

Cathepsin L1 and L2, trematode hemoglobin, glutathione-S-transferase and fatty acid binding protein have been used in vaccination studies against F. hepatica and F. gigantica in sheep and cattle. Live attenuated vaccines are available for a number of protozoan parasites including Babesia bovis, Theileria annulata, Eimeria spp. and Toxoplasma.

Gene therapy in veterinary medicine

Gene therapy is a therapeutic technique in which a functioning gene is inserted into a cell to correct a metabolic abnormality or to introduce a new function is one of the outcomes of breakthroughs in molecular biology. Gene therapy is a promising approach to the treatmentof cancer and other genetic diseases in human and animals.

Embryo Transfer

Embryo transfer is a technique by which embryos are collected from a donor female and transferred to a recipient female which serves as a surrogate mother for the remainder of pregnancy. Such techniques have been applied to nearly every species of domestic animals,

wild life and exotic animals as well as to humans and other primates. Embryo transfer is used in buffalo and dromedary camel.

Embryo transfer is useful for rapidly increasing numbers of an imported breed or line animals. There are many applications of embryo transfer. They are training and research, testing for deleterious recessive genes, management of disease, conservation of native breeds, exotic and wild animals.


New techniques, such as the use of uniquely designed molecular beacons and DNA microarrays will eventually allow rapid screening for specific parasite genotypes and assist in diagnostic and epidemiological studies of veterinary parasites.

In the field of food safety, hybridization methods were used to detect Campylobacter sp., Toxoplasma, Listeria, and Coliform bacteria.

Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR) have brought about new ideas on the detection of RNA Viruses in tissues and body fluids. RNA viruses can now be detected at a high level of sensitivity in infected materials.

The detection of Newcastle disease virus (NDV) in infective allantoic fluids using PCR were first discovered by Jestin and Jestin, 1991. Later, several RT-PCR methods were developed and used in molecular studies of NDV.

There is a close relationship between the Render Pest Virus and PPRV and they both belong to the morbilly virus genus of the paramyxoviridae family. In infected animals, both diseases are clinically very similar, thus making it very difficult to differentiate them on the field. Molecular biology techniques have been developed to differentiate RPV from PPRV. Couacy-Hyman et al., 2006, describe the use of a reverse transcription –PCR (RT-PCR) technique for the specific diagnosis of RPV and to distinguish all RPV strains from those of PPRV.

Typically, DNA is extracted from the sample of interest which can then be probed by DNA hybridization and analyzed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). More commonly, DNA is amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using specific primers for diagnostic sequences.

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