Doctor Laura Brettell

I am a disease ecologist interested in understanding disease emergence and evolution in an ecological setting, with a particular interest in viruses which infect members of pollinator communities. I use field studies along with cutting edge molecular and bioinformatics approaches to answer questions relating to virus evolution, transmission between different species, and effects; both on individual hosts and more broadly on the ecosystem. I am also interested in employing next generation sequencing technology to discover and understand potentially important novel viruses.

I have studied insect viruses for a number of years, in the UK, Brazil and Hawaii, initially at the University of Sheffield, UK, as a research assistant and later for my PhD at the University of Salford, UK, under the supervision of Prof Stephen Martin. My research has primarily focussed on Deformed wing virus (DWV), and the relationship between this virus, its host the honey bee, and its vector the Varroa mite. I have investigated the role of DWV (and particular variants therof) in honey bee colony collapse, the survival of tolerant/resistant populations and the development of pathogenic effects. More recently I have investigated viruses in the ecosystem more broadly and studied a number of RNA viruses harboured by the wider insect community, including the discovery of novel viruses.

I joined the HIE in September 2017 to work on a large multi-disciplinary project looking at sustainable pollination in horticulture in Australia, focussing for my part, on pollinator diseases.

Areas of research/teaching expertise

Molecular biology, ecology, evolution, bioinformatics.

Awards and Recognition

  • Salford University Pathway to Excellence PhD programme Scholarship (2014-2017)
  • Sanander International Travel Bursary (AU$ 1,600). 'Investigating the viral ecology of DWV in Brazilian honey bee populations.'
  • Salford University Research Impact Fund (AU$1,300) 'Investigating viral spillover in Brazil'.


Brettell LE, Riegler M, O'Brien C, Cook JM, (2020) 'Occurrence of honey bee-associated pathogens in Varroa-free pollinator communities', Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, vol.171, Article no.107344

Liu H, Brettell LE, Qiu Z, Singh BK, (2020) 'Microbiome-Mediated Stress Resistance in Plants', Trends in Plant Science, vol.25, no.8, pp 733-743

Martin SJ, Hawkins GP, Brettell LE, Reece N, Correia-Oliveira ME, Allsopp MH, (2020) 'Varroa destructorreproduction and cell re-capping in mite-resistantApis melliferapopulations', Apidologie, vol.51, no.3, pp 369-381

Benaets K, Van Geystelen A, Cardoen D, De Smet L, de Graaf DC, Schoofs L, Larmuseau MH, Brettell LE, Martin SJ, Wenseleers T, (2017) 'Covert deformed wing virus infections have long-term deleterious effects on honeybee foraging and survival', Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol.284, no.1848, p 20162149

Brettell LE, Martin SJ, (2017) 'Oldest Varroa tolerant honey bee population provides insight into the origins of the global decline of honey bees', Scientific Reports, vol.7, 45953

Brettell LE, Mordecai GJ, Pachori P, Martin SJ, (2017) 'Novel RNA virus genome discovered in Ghost ants (Tapinoma melanocephalum) from Hawaii', Genome Announcements, vol.5. no.30, e00669-17

Brettell LE, Mordecai GJ, Schroeder DC, Jones IM, da Silva JR, Vicente-Rubiano M, Martin SJ, (2017) 'A comparison of deformed wing virus in deformed and asymptomatic honey bees', Insects, vol.8, no.1, p28

Mordecai GJ, Brettell LE, Martin SJ, Dixon D, Jones IM, Schroeder DC, (2016) 'Superinfection exclusion and the long-term survival of honey bees in Varroa-infested colonies', The ISME Journal, vol.10, no.5, p 1182

Mordecai GJ*, Brettell LE*, Pachori P, Villalobos EM, Martin SJ, Jones IM, Schroeder DC, (2016) 'Moku virus; a new Iflavirus found in wasps, honey bees and Varroa', Scientific Reports, vol.6, p 34983
*equal first authorship

Martin SJ, Highfield AC, Brettell L, Villalobos EM, Budge GE, Powell M, Nikaido S, Schroeder DC, (2012). Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite. Science, 336(6086), 1304-1306