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Microbiology Logo Microbiology & Immunology
Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate

Emeritus Professor Frank Griffin

Research interests:

Applied and molecular immunology, animal disease

Current research:


Professor Frank Griffin is the Director of the Ag@Otago research theme at the University of Otago, a new initiative drawing on the strengths in plant and animal production, food and health, and sustainability. With over 40 years experience in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology he is a consultant to many international committees and consortia, and a member of societies of immunology and microbiology in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

The focus of Ag@Otago is:

  • Enhancing agricultural productivity
  • Adding value to primary industry products
  • Sustainable and profitable environmental management

Disease Research Limited (DRL)

Professor Frank Griffin was the founding director of DRL, which has been carrying out research on mycobacterial diseases (tuberculosis/paratuberculosis) in ruminants and wildlife species for the past 35 years. In the past decade their work has led to the development of improved immunodiagnostics and molecular techniques for the detection of paratuberculosis (Johnes disease). DRL has recently identified deer breeds with polarised phenotypes for resistance and susceptibility to paratuberculosis.

DRL is now a part of Otago Innovation Limited.

Research projects 

Johne's disease (Paratuberculosis)

DRL research is currently focused on exploring immune mechanisms that are associated with either pathological (diagnostic) or protective responses in deer exposed to M.paratuberculosis. Purebred lines of deer that display extremes of resistance or susceptibility to paratuberculosis are being studied to identify candidate genes that result in a resistant (R) or susceptable (S) phenotype In vivo and in vitro. Transcriptomics on mononuclear cells studies on deer with either R or S genotypes are being carried out currently.

Objectives of current studies

  • Characterise pathways of  immunepathogenesis in experimentally infected deer displaying different stages of Johne's disease

  • Identify immune markers associated with protective immunity in animals with resistant genotypes.

  • Map genes associated with resistance or susceptable deer phenotypes.

These projects have  involved collaboration with researchers at AgResearch (Invermay and Wallaceville). Important key relationships have been formed with the end users who are supporting these programmes with co-funding and access to unique deer breeds. Government support is through the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FoRST) and the Johnes Disease Research Consortium (JDRC).

Recent publications

Busch, F., Bannerman, F., Liggett, S, Griffin, F., Clarke, J., Lyashchenko, K. & Rhodes, S. (2017) Control of bovine tuberculosis in a farmed deer herd in England. Vet Rec. 180: 68-72 doi: 10.1136/vr.103930

Gupta SK, Haigh BJ, Seyfert HM, Griffin FJ, Wheeler TT. Bovine milk RNases modulate pro-inflammatory responses induced by nucleic acids in cultured immune and epithelial cells. Dev Comp Immunol. 2017 Mar;68:87-97. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2016.11.015. Epub 2016 Nov 19.PMID:27871831

Mackintosh, C. G., Griffin, J.F.T., Scott, I. C., O’Brien, R., Stanton, J. L., Mclean, P. & Brauning, R. SOLID SAGE sequencing shows differential gene expression in jejunal lymph node samples or resistant and susceptible deer (Cervus elaphus) cahllenged with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 2016:169:102-10. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2015.10.009. Epub 2015 Nov 10. PMID: 26620077

Buddle, B. M., de Lisle, G. W., Griffin, J. F. T & Hutchings, S. A. Epidemiology, diagnosis and management of tuberculosis in domestic cattle and deer in New Zealand in the face of a wildlife reservoir. N Z vet J Suppl 1:19-27. doi: 10. 1080/00480169.2014.929518. Epub Feb 3. (2015)

Griffin. J. F. T. Farmed deer: A veterinary model for chronic mycobacterial diseases that is accessible, appropriate and cost-effective. J. Pharm. Bio. Sci.  6: 10-15 (2014).

Marfell, B. J., O’Brien, R. and J.F.T. Griffin. Gene expression profiling of monocyte-derived macrophages from red der (Cervus elaphus) genotypically resistant to Mycobacterium avium subsps. paratuberculosis infection. Developmental and Comparative Immunology.  40:210-217. (2013)                                                     

Wadwa, A., Johnson, R. E., Mackintosh, C. G., Griffin, J. F. T., Waters, Bannantine, J. P & Eda, S. Use of ethanol etract of Mycobacterium bovis Ifor detection of specific antibodies in sera of farmed  red deer (Cervus elaphus) with bovine tuberculosis. BMC Veterinary Research (2013), 9:256

O'Brien R, Hughes A, Liggett S, Griffin F. Composite testing for ante-mortem diagnosis of Johne's disease in farmed New Zealand deer: correlations between reactivity and faecal shedding as determined by quantitative PCR. BMC veterinary Research 04/2013; 9(1):72. DOI: 10. 1186/1746-6148-9-72 pp72.

Dobson B, Liggett S, O'Brien R, Griffin JF. Innate immune markers that distinguish red deer (Cervus elaphus) selected for resistant or susceptible genotypes for Johne's disease.  Vet Res 2013 Jan 24;44(1):5.

Mackintosh, C.G., Clark, R.G., Thompson, B., Tolentino, B., de Lisle, G.W. and Griffin J.F.T.Immunological and pathological responses of red deer resistant or susceptible genoytpes, to experimental challenge with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Veterinary Microbiology,Volume 143, Issues 1–2, 15 September 2011, Pages 131-142

Robinson, M.W., O’Brien, R., Mackintosh, C.G., Clark, R.G. and Griffin, J.F.T. Immunoregulatory cytokines are associated with protection from immunopathology following Mycobacterium aviumsubspecies paratuberculosis infection in red deerInfection and Immunity.  79(5): 2089–2097 (2011)

Mackintosh, C.G., Clark, R.G., Thompson, B., Tolentino, B., Griffin, J.F.T., de Lisle, G.W.  Age susceptibility of red deer (Cervus elaphus) to paratuberculosis. Veterinary Microbiology. 143, 255-261 (2010).

Pieterse, M. C., Eisenbergh, S. W. F., Folmer, G. E., Liggett, S., Griffin, J. F. T., Koets, A. P., Nielen, M. Evidence of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection in Dutch farmed red deer. Tijdschrift voor Diergeneeskunde. 135: 23, 886-890 (2010).

Dobson, B.J., Mackintosh, C.G., Griffin, J.F.T. Development of the thymus and peyer’s patches in the first year of life in red deer (Cervus elaphus) . Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.137:93-98 (2010).

Robinson, M., O’Brien, R., Mackintosh, C.G., Griffin, J.F.T. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell population changes associated with age and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosisinfection in red deer (Cervus elaphus). Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 136: 211-218 (2010).

Gillan, S., Hughes, A.D., O’Brien, R., Griffin, J.F.T. Ovine immune parameters following immunization against Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis using a lipid-based live cell vaccine.Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 137: 109-119 (2010)

Gillan, S., O’Brien, R., Hughes, A.D., Griffin, J.F.T. Identification of immune parameters to differentiate disease states among sheep infected with Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis.Clinical and Vaccine Immunology 17: 108-117 (2010).

Clark, R.G., Griffin, J.F.T. and Mackintosh, C.G. Johne’s disease caused by Mycobacterium aviumsubsp paratuberculosis infection in red deer (Cervus elaphus): An histopathological grading system, and comparison of paucibacillary and multibacillary disease New Zealand Veterinary Journal 58: 90-97 (2010)

Griffin, J.F.T., Hughes, A.D., Liggett, S., Farquhar, P.A., Mackintosh, C.G. and Bakker, D.Efficacy of a novel lipid-formulated whole bacterial cell vaccine against Mycobacterium avium subsp.paratuberculosis in sheepVaccine 27: 911-918 (2009).

Robinson, M., O’Brien, R., Mackintosh, C. and Griffin, F. Differential immune responses of Red deer (Cervus elaphus) following challenge with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Clinical Vaccine Immunology 15: 963-969 (2008).

Mackintosh, C.G., Labes, R.E., Thompson, B.R., Clark, R.G., de Lisle, G.W., Johnstone, P.D., Griffin, J.F.T. Efficacy, immune responses and side-effects of vaccines against Johne's disease in young red deer (Cervus elaphus) experimentally challenged with Mycobacterium avium subspparatuberculosisNew Zealand Veterinary Journal 56: 1-9 (2008).

Hines M. E. II,. Stabel, J. R., Sweeney, R. W., Griffin, F., Talatt, A. M., Bakker, D., Benedictus, G., Davis, W. C., DeLisle, G. W., Gardner, I.A., Juste, R. A., Kapur, V., Koets, A., McNair, J., Pruitt, G. and Whitlock, R. H. Experimental Challenge Models for Johne’s disease: A Review and proposed International GuidelinesVeterinary Microbiology 122: 197-222 (2007).

Bannantine, J. P., Radosevich, T. J., Stabel, J. R., Berger, S., Griffin, J. F. T. and Paustian, M. L.Production and Characterization of Monoclonal Antibodies against a Major Membrane Protein ofMycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology 14: 312-317 (2007).

Mackintosh, C. G., Labes, R. E., Clark, R. G., deLisle, G. W. and Griffin, J. F. T. Experimental infections in young red deer (Cervus elaphus) with a bovine and ovine strain of Mycobacterium aviumsubsp. paratuberculosis. New Zealand Verterinary Journal 55: 23-29 (2007).

Berger, S., Bannantine, J. P. and Griffin, J. F. T. Autoreactive antibodies are present in sheep with Johne’s disease and cross-react with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis antigens.Microbes and Infection 9: 963-970 (2007).

Berger, S.T., Hinz, D., Bannantine, J.P. and Griffin, J.F.T. Isolation of High-Affinity Single-Chain Antibodies against Mycobacterium avium subsp.paratuberculosis Surface Proteins from Sheep with Johne’s DiseaseClinical and Vaccine Immunology 13: 1022 – 1029 (2006)

Berger, S.T. and Griffin J.F.T. A Comparison of Ovine monocyte-derived macrophage function following infection with Mycobacterium avium ssp. avium and Mycobacterium avium ssp.paratuberculosis. Immunology and Cell Biology 84: 349 – 356 (2006).

O’Brien, R., Mackintosh, C. G., Bakker, D., Kopecna, M., Pavlik, I., Griffin., J.F.T. Immunological and molecular characterisation of susceptibility in relation to bacterial strain differences inMycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection in red deer (Cervus elaphus). Infection and Immunity. 74: 3530-3537 (2006).

Begg, D., Kemp, R and Griffin, F. Normal levels of immunocompetence in possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) exposed to different laboratory housing conditions post capture immunol Cell Biol.253-256 (2004)

Quershi, T., Labes, R.E., Lambeth, M., Griffin, J.F.T. and Mackintosh, C.G. Transmission ofMycobacterium bovis. From experimentally infected ferrets to non-infected ferrets. NZ Vet. J. 48: 99-104 (2000)

Griffin, J.F.T., Spittle, E., Rodgers, C., Liggett, S., Cooper, M., Bakker, D., Bannantine, J.Immunoglobulin G1 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for diagnosis of Johne’s disease in red deer (Cervus elaphus). Clinical & Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology 12: 1401-1409 (2005)

Begg, D., Griffin, J.F.T. Vaccination of sheep against M. Paratuberculosis Immune parameters and protective efficacy. Vaccine. 23: 4999-5008 (2005)

Mackintosh, C.G., Labes, R., Griffin, J.F.T. The effect of Johne’s vaccination on tuberculin testing in farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus) NZVJ. 53: (4) 216-222 (2005)

Begg, D., O’Brien, R., Mackintosh, C.G and Griffin, J.F.T. An experimental infection model for Johne’s disease in sheep. Infect Immun. 73: 5603-5611 (2005)