Research at APHA

We carry out research on various animal and wildlife diseases including bovine TB, food-borne bacteria and antimicrobial resistance.

Much of APHA’s scientific activity is focused on protecting Great Britain against the threat and impact of a wide variety of animal diseases and other species conflicts. Many of these diseases also infect humans.

Our research provides scientific evidence that allows us to provide expert advice and supports policy development for the government and the European Union.

We work with farmers, vets and managers in the field and undertake surveillance activities to detect and respond to exotic diseases, and to identify and assess new and emerging diseases in livestock and wildlife.

Our main areas of research include:

  • bovine tuberculosis and development of vaccines and diagnostic tests for badgers and cattle
  • bacterial diseases and food safety including food-borne bacteria such as Salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli, bacterial pathogens such as Brucella and Mycoplasma, and antimicrobial resistance
  • viral diseases including avian and mammalian viruses such as Newcastle disease, influenza and classical swine fever, zoonotic and wildlife viruses such as rabies and vector-borne diseases
  • transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)
  • wildlife management including wildlife diseases, invasive non-native species, methods development and human-wildlife conflicts

These activities are delivered via the agency’s scientific disciplines: epidemiology, virology, bacteriology, pathology, parasitology, biomathematics, modelling and risk analysis, molecular biology, immunology and ecology.

For further information, see our science strategy, 2015 to 2020

Reference laboratory

APHA also acts as an international reference laboratory (PDF, 332KB, 1 page) for a wide range of infectious and non-infectious diseases in farm animals. We provide veterinary and scientific consultancy to countries across the world offering:

  • confirmatory testing
  • technical training and expert consultancy
  • development and standardisation of diagnostic methods to ensure they are fit for purpose to detect new strains of pathogens

Reference laboratory websites

Science blog

See our APHA Science blog to read more about our science and research work at APHA. You can also sign up for email updates whenever the blog is updated.

Scientific papers


If you have an enquiry about our research or reference laboratory functions, please email

Ethics Committee

For APHA to achieve its mission to “safeguard animal and plant health for the benefit of people, the environment and the economy” it is necessary to do scientific research into diseases that affect this.

Part of this research involves the use of animals. To do this, APHA complies with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. It also has a code of practice, working procedures and training programmes to define and enforce the high standards the agency must have for this type of work.

APHA has its own Ethics Committee which must review and approve all experiments involving the use of animals for a scientific purpose before they begin. The committee members include vets, animal care staff, a biostatistician, scientists and non-scientists from across the agency. There are also external lay members of the committee, recruited from the local community, who bring an independent view to the proceedings.

The Ethics Committee ensures that the 3 Rs* have been applied to the study proposal :

  • replacement – if an animal experiment can be replaced by non-living alternatives then it must be

  • reduction – the number of animals used must be the minimum that is consistent with the production of meaningful results

  • refinement – all aspects of care and use of animals from the beginning to end of the study must be designed to minimise the impacts on the animals welfare

After this stage, each proposed study is then subject to a harm-benefit analysis, when the harms caused are weighed against the potential benefits from the work. Only where the potential benefits outweigh the harms is a project justified and only then does the APHA carry out studies using animals.

The Ethics Committee and those involved with the work also complete retrospective analyses of the experiments to ensure benefits are achieved, and to continually improve the refinement of experiments.

APHA is a signatory to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research - Understanding Animal Research.

See the research using animals at APHA under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act in 2015 (PDF, 169KB, 2 pages)

*Russell W M S and Burch R L (1959) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. Methuen: London.