Anne Watt receives industry award to investigate respiratory disease in pigs

Microbiologist Anne Watt has received the Australian Pork Ltd Award at the 2019 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The awards are presented at the ABARES Outlook 2019 conference dinner on Tuesday 5 March. Bethany Finger of the School of Biosciences at the University of Melbourne received the Dairy Australia Award.

Ms Watt was part of a team that discovered a completely new bacteria causing respiratory disease in Australian pigs during her PhD research at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences’ Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health.

But at the end of her studies, a lot of questions remained. Is the novel Glaesserella species she found common or uncommon? How we can treat it? And could we be missing other diseases out there?

Ms Watt, now a research fellow at the University of Melbourne and scheduled to graduate with a PhD in April 2019, is hoping to answer some of these questions to help Australian pig producers manage respiratory disease in their herd.

Her Science and Innovation Award project will examine the presence of the new Glaesserella species, as well as A. pleuropneumoniae, G. parasuis and A. indolicus, in the lungs of pigs.

If the diseases are common, Ms Watt also wants to help producers weigh up treatment options such as antibiotics, vaccines or better management of animals on the farm.

“I was really excited to be able to design a project that’s going to attempt to answer some of these questions,” she says.

“I’m lucky that it was a project that I really enjoyed and I now have the opportunity to carry that on.”

Ms Watt says she has always loved animals, often visiting family in rural Victoria as a child, and is driven by wanting to improve the health of production animals. This project is a meeting of three areas she loves—animals, disease and microbiology.

“If I can be doing research that is making animal systems better… it’s great for the farmers,” she says.

“And it ultimately helps the animals to make them as healthy and happy as possible.”

Previous Science and Innovation Award recipients in the Faculty include Christina Marth for research to predict cow fertility in 2018, Clare Anstead for work on flystrike in 2017, and Lauren Hemsworth to improve the welfare of lactating sows and Nadeeka Wawegama for the study of Mycoplasma bovis in 2016.

Banner image: Anne Watt receives the Australian Pork Ltd Award from David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources​; photo courtesy Steve Keough Photography. Main content courtesy of Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.