P4-0092 – Animal Health, Environment and Food Safety


1. 1. 2020 – 31. 12. 2025

Lead partner:

University of Ljubljana,Veterinary Faculty

Project partners:

University of Primorska, Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Ljubljana, Biotehnical Faculty

Principal Researcher:

Prof. Matjaž Ocepek (SICRIS, ResearchGate)

Programme coordinator at UP Faculty of Health Sciences:

Katja Bezek (SICRIS, ResearchGate)



Many diseases affect animal health. They can be caused by several pathogens, due to deficient or improper farming techniques and poor nutrition. This is directly related to the protection of human health. Research in this area include the detection and typing of pathogens, incidence and their transmissibility and to identify ways of preventing disease in domestic and wild animals, including fish and bees. The research is focused on actual diseases such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, tick-transmitted diseases, Borna disease, Visna, caprine arthritis encephalitis, and other infectious and noninfectious encephalopathies. Special attention is devoted to the study of certain types of tumors caused by oncogenic viruses. Another area of research are tumors that occur in wildlife or in animals living in the same environment as humans.

Recently, in animal breeding more and more frequently disease agents emerge that cause a serious – especially nosocomial – infections in humans. Research concentrate especially on the detection and spread of zoonoses, mainly bacteria and rickettsiae (Clostridium difficile, Clamydophila psittacii, Staphylococcus aureus). It is necessary to establish in which animal species the pathogens appear and if they occur in the nutritional chain.

The most important vectors (organisms that transmit disease agents) are arthropods, among them mosquitoes and ticks that can transmit viral, bacterial and protozoal diseases. These diseases are gaining ground due to the resistance development against insecticides and medical products, because of weaker prevention and disease control, the increase of population, tree felling, changes in agriculture and increased tourism. Changes also occured in the living environment of some vectors, that had geographically expanded from the primary vector habitats. The research is focused on different infectious agents, on their presence and prevalence in different vectors and on identification of most common vector hosts.

Animals are endangered also by a number of diseases caused by viruses from different families. The majority of viral diseases are characterized by rapid spread of the pathogen in a short time and a large number of animals are affected. There may be significant economic losses, the extent of which is difficult to predict. Some viral diseases are also dangerous due to the transmission of an agent to human beings. Research includes important viral disease of domestic and wild animals, fish and bees (pestiviruses rhabdoviruses, orthomyxoviruses, paramyxoviruses …), which cause an extremely contagious disease and have a great importance in international trade of animals and animal products, but they also have serious socio-economic consequences. Research is also focused on infections caused by viruses having a significant impact on health and economic indicators in animal breeding. Within these, the research is especially oriented in studying immunosuppresive and respiratory disease agents. The research objective is the development of fast and effective diagnostic methods and the introduction of modern molecular-epidemiological approaches to detect the disease agent and to prevent the spread of the pathogens.
The aim of the research is also to provide a suitable environment for optimal health and livestock production, as well as to preserve the environment against pollution from intensive farming and against treatment of many animals in a limited place. We study the impact of drug residues, excrement disposals and organic waste resulting from intensive livestock farming and food processing activities (composting) on the environment (ecotoxicology).

A very topical issue is related to adverse food containing natural antinutritive and toxic substances such as pesticides, radionuclides, heavy metals and residues of drugs, animal feeds, saprophytic and pathogenic bacteria and fungi and their toxins. Research in this area include detection and solving problems relevant to the provision of safe food and thus indirectly the protection of human health.

The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency  – research core funding No. P4-0092.