Dr Antonio Peña-Fernández

Job: Senior Lecturer (VC2020) in Biomedical & Medical Science

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Allied Health Sciences

Research group(s): Biomedical and Environmental Health

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 201 3859

E: antonio.pena-fernandez@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.dmu.ac.uk

 

Personal profile

Dr Antonio Peña-Fernández is a Senior Lecturer (VC2020) in Biomedical & Medical Sciences in the School of Allied Health Sciences at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He has a BSc in Chemistry from the University of San Pablo CEU, Spain (2000), a MSc in Toxicology from the University of Sevilla, Spain (2006), and a PhD in Physiology and Toxicology from the University of Alcalá (2011). Antonio’s interests include: parasitology, physiology, toxicology, and environmental and public health.

His research work focused in human biomonitoring as a tool for the assessment of internal doses of contaminants, particularly metals and metalloids, and the study of these compounds in urban and industrial environments for the characterisation of risks and the development of protocols to protect the human health.

Antonio has also worked in Parasitology, carrying out a study of the prevalence of Leishmania sp. in dogs in the Community of Madrid (Spain). He was awarded with a second research prize for novel researchers due to the performance of this project. 

Dr Peña-Fernández is also a Senior Fellow of the HEA (SFHEA) and he is involved in pedagogic research, e-learning development and curriculum design.

Research group affiliations

Publications and outputs 

  • Toxicology training to decontaminate environments affected by chemicals.
    Toxicology training to decontaminate environments affected by chemicals. Pena-Fernandez, A.; Duarte-Davidson, R.; Wyke, S. Health professionals will be required to have some foundation knowledge in environmental toxicology to combat increasing morbidity/mortality indices due to environmental contamination. However, very little training in these specialised topics is delivered in human health science degrees due to time and curriculum constraints. We have created a short training course that has shown to be effective in providing pharmacy students with basic skills to tailor a complete protection, decontamination and restoration strategy for environments contaminated by chemicals. The web-based recovery tool to respond to chemical incidents developed by Public Health England would be an effective resource to provide this specific training.
  • Addressing student retention and engagement using new technology.
    Addressing student retention and engagement using new technology. Pena-Fernandez, A.; Evans, M. D.; Pena-Fernandez, M. A. A range of strategies to improve retention and progression of Biomedical Science students at De Montfort University (DMU) implemented in 2016/17 included: an intensive induction week with social/networking events involving academics; an increment in the number of lectures and tutorials on STEM topics; the creation of regular drop-in sessions for each module. These strategies might have translated into a trend in the reduction of the percentage of students that failed in year 1, due to academic circumstances, from 19% in 2014/15 to 9.6% in 2016/17. More actions being developed include creation of a complete website covering fundamental biology and chemistry.
  • Web-based learning and teaching resources for microscopic detection of human parasites.
    Web-based learning and teaching resources for microscopic detection of human parasites. Pena-Fernandez, A.; Acosta, L.; Izquierdo, F. DMU e-Parasitology (http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk) presents novel web-based resources co-developed by EU academics at De Montfort University (DMU) for the teaching and learning of microscopic diagnoses of common and emerging human parasites. The package will be completed early in 2019 and presents a Virtual Laboratory and Microscope, which are equipped with engaging units for learning parasitological staining and fresh preparation techniques for detecting cysts, oocysts, eggs and spores, in conjunction with a library of digitised clinical slides. Units are equipped with short videos of academics performing the different techniques and quizzes and exercises, to provide students with the most practical experience possible.
  • Cryptosporidium spp. in the English urban environment: a public health concern?
    Cryptosporidium spp. in the English urban environment: a public health concern? Anjum, U.; Magnet, A.; Izquierdo, F.; Pena-Fernandez, A. Several species of Cryptosporidium can infect humans and have been described as opportunistic parasites. Different outbreaks have been described in the UK as oocysts of these pathogens can spread through contaminated water and food as some species of Cryptosporidium, such as C. parvum, exhibit resistance to harsh environmental conditions. These pathogens have been found in animal faeces, thus we reported the presence of Cryptosporidium spp. in a dog faecal sample collected in a highly frequented public park in Leicester city centre (UK), after screening 9 topsoil and 18 faecal samples. As a result, and to determine potential risks to the Leicester population, we collected 132 animal faecal samples [37 deer, 13 dogs, 4 cats and 78 avian (27 uncertain due to diarrhoea, 25 pigeon, 14 waterfowl and 12 songbird)] across different parks in Leicester from June 2017 to May 2018. Animal faecal samples were appropriately screened using Kinyoun's acid-fast staining. We observed structures related to Cryptosporidium spp. in 16 faecal samples as follows: 10.3% avian (3 pigeon, 2 songbird and 3 diarrhoeic), 18.9% deer and 7.7% dog. However, and in order to characterise the risks to the local population, molecular analysis will be required to determine if the oocysts of Cryptosporidium spp. found are from anthroponotic species. Our results might highlight the relevance of performing environmental monitoring studies to determine the presence of these pathogens in the urban environment due to the unprecedented expansion of the urban media that is occurring to a global scale.
  • Interventions to enhance the teaching status of parasitology.
    Interventions to enhance the teaching status of parasitology. Pena-Fernandez, A.; Magnet, A.; Hoosen, H.; Evans, M.; Acosta, L. Recent surveys have highlighted an erosion of the teaching of parasitology in medical and veterinary schools across Europe and other developed countries, despite reports of increasing instances of food and water borne parasitic infections in these regions. To facilitate the teaching of this subject, essential to develop future health care professionals, we are performing different interventions at De Montfort University (DMU, UK). Briefly, these include: a) curriculum modifications to increase the time dedicated to the study of parasitology; and b) implementation of web-based resources in the curricula for enhancing teaching (e.g. through introduction of blended learning) and to encourage self-learning and participation among the students. Thus, DMU is leading the development of an on-line package for teaching and learning parasitology named DMU e-Parasitology in collaboration with different European academics and clinicians. This package has four sections: a theoretical section with mini e-learning modules to study major human parasitic diseases; virtual laboratory describing major techniques used in parasitology; a microscopy section with resources to enhance the study of parasites; a section with virtual clinical case studies to encourage self-learning. To assess the effectiveness of DMU e-Parasitology as a learning resource, we have done preliminary testing with final year BSc Biomedical Science students at DMU (n=194; 2017/18). 94.5% of students highlighted they gained appropriate knowledge of the pathology, prevention and treatment of some parasitic diseases; and 93.1% indicated that they learnt basic skills to investigate parasitic disease. The interventions and resources described could be used to improve the teaching status of medical parasitology in human health degrees.
  • Human-related microsporidia in the English urban environment: what we know so far?
    Human-related microsporidia in the English urban environment: what we know so far? Hoosen, H.; Anjum, U.; Izquierdo, F.; Pena-Fernandez, A. The potential zoonotic transmission route of Enterocytozoon bieneusi and Encephalitozoon spp. (E. intestinalis, E. hellem and E. cuniculi) is under discussion. “Urban animals” could represent a risk to the population that should be carefully studied. Following the detection of human-related microsporidia in 2 out of 18 dog faecal samples collected in the city centre of Leicester (UK) in January 2016, 228 animal faecal samples were randomly sampled from different parks and recreational areas across the city from June 2016 to February 2017. The presence of microsporidia species were sought by real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) with melting curve analysis after extracting DNA by dysrupting the spores using Fast-Prep for soil following previous methodologies. 28 stool samples were positive for human-pathogenic microsporidia, as follows: Enterocytozoon bieneusi was detected in 2 waterfowl stool samples. A higher prevalence of Encephalitozoon spp. was identified. Thus, 26 faecal samples (14 deer, 7 avian [3 waterfowl, 2 songbird, 1 pigeon, 1 uncertain], 2 dog, 1 fox and 2 unidentified due to diarhoea) were positive for Encephalitozoon spp. Specifically, E. intestinalis/ E. hellem were detected in two samples from avian species (waterfowl and diarrhoeic sample) and E. cuniculi in 7 (6 deer and 1 fox). Our results indicate that human-related microsporidia would be present in urban parks and recreational areas in Leicester, which could represent a risk for humans. Interventions to tackle this potential risk should be applicable to a variety of animals, although more studies are needed to fully understand the potential zoonotic role of these pathogens.
  • Presence of Giardia in urban parks from Leicester, UK
    Presence of Giardia in urban parks from Leicester, UK Pena-Fernandez, A.; Izquierdo, F.; Anjum, U. Giardia duodenalis (syn. G. lamblia and G. intestinalis) is a worldwide leading diarrheagenic human protozoan parasite with potential to contaminate water, food or fomites. Animal-to‑animal and animal‑to‑human transmissions are major concerns, however human giardiasis in the United Kingdom (UK) are underdiagnosed. The main aim of this study was to evaluate if Giardia is present in an English urban environment to determine if public health interventions were necessary to protect human health. Thus, 21 fresh animal faecal samples were collected from Humberstone Park in Leicester (UK) in August 2017, when there had been no precipitation for at least the preceding 48 h. A veterinarian identified the possible animal species as: 7 avian (2 songbird, 1 pigeon, 4 uncertain) and 14 canine (dog). Smears were stained with Trichrome as described elsewhere. Giardia spp. cysts were observed in three faecal samples from dogs (21.4%), confirming our previous results in which we detected the presence of G. duodenalis in one dog faecal sample collected in the Leicester’s Castle Park (central Leicester) in a pilot study performed in winter 2016 using the immunoassay ImmunoCard STAT!®. Our results, although preliminary, indicate the presence of Giardia spp. in Leicester’s urban environment. Moreover, dogs could act as reservoirs and might play a potential role in the transmission of these pathogens in Leicester. Thus, public parks could be an important source of infection, particularly for children, as they can accidentally ingest this parasite from soil contaminated with dog faeces. This pilot study has provided critical insight for performing a more comprehensive study to determine the size of this risk and the necessity of enhancing public health awareness to reduce canine faecal pollution in Leicester to protect human health.
  • Potential presence of Cyclospora and Cystoisospora in urban parks from Leicester, UK
    Potential presence of Cyclospora and Cystoisospora in urban parks from Leicester, UK Pena-Fernandez, A.; Anjum, U. Cyclospora cayetanensis and Cystoisospora belli (previously known as Isospora belli) are emerging coccidian parasites that can spread by ingesting contaminated food or water. Despite their presence is more common in tropical and subtropical regions, different studies have described domestic outbreaks due to these pathogens around the world. Zoonotic transmission of these pathogens is under discussion as they have been found in various animals and birds. We have performed a preliminary study to investigate their potential presence in an English urban environment. 132 animal faecal samples were collected between Summer 2017 and Spring 2018 from 7 different urban parks across Leicester (UK). A veterinarian confirmed animal species as: 78 avian (25 pigeon, 14 waterfowl, 12 songbird, 27 uncertain due to diarrhoea), 37 deer, 13 dogs and 4 cats. Smears were microscopically analysed by Kinyoun's acid-fast staining technique. Cyclospora spp. were observed in three faecal samples (2.3%), two from deer and one from avian (diarrheic sample); however, further analysis are required to determine if the oocysts observed are from Cyclospora cayetanensis. Contrarily, Cystoisospora spp. were not found in any of the screened stool samples. Despite our results should be considered as preliminary, the presence of Cyclospora spp. oocists in 2.3% of the animal faecal samples collected across Leicester might represent a potential human risk that, although minor, should be throughly studied to protect the local community. Moreover, Cyclospora spp. have been found in different animal species, which may require different interventions to target those specific animals to protect the public health.
  • Potential presence of microsporidia in clinical faecal specimens from the Isle of Man.
    Potential presence of microsporidia in clinical faecal specimens from the Isle of Man. Hoosen, H.; Izquierdo, F.; Sheilds, R.; Helm, C.; Khan, R.; del Aguila, C.; Fenoy, S.; Pena-Fernandez, A. Human-related microsporidia Enterocytozoon bieneusi and Encephalitozoon spp. have emerged as opportunistic infectious agents affecting both immunocompromised and immunocompetent individuals. A pilot study to determine the potential presence of microsporidia in the general population that have attended Nobles’ Hospital in Isle of Man (UK) since January 2018 was performed. Thirty eight faecal samples submitted to the Nobles’ Hospital microbiology lab for routine testing were analysed via microscopy using the Modified Trichrome stain. Encephalitozoon spp. spores were observed in 4 samples, specifically 3 female from a range of ages (24 yr, 65yr and 89 yr old) and one male (69 yr old). These four patients were presented with diarrhoea in a semi-liquid/liquid form. Other symptoms included vomiting (89 yr old female), abdominal pain (24 yr old female), right flank pain (68 yr old male), dehydration (89 yr old female) and acute kidney injury (89 yr old female). Campylobacter spp. growth was also detected in one sample (65 yr old female). Although preliminary, our results indicate Encephalitozoon spp. were observed in faecal samples from patients in the Isle of Man presenting with diarrhoea, for which further studies will be required to determine the species and the pathogenic involvement of these pathogens in these patients. To our knowledge, this is the first study of the presence of microsporidia in human faecal samples in Isle of Man. A more comprehensive study is needed to determine the occurrence of microsporidia in patients attending with a diarrheic picture to focus attention on the need to include microsporidial diagnosis in their management.
  • Histology resources for promoting blended learning
    Histology resources for promoting blended learning Pena-Fernandez, A.; Ramos, I.; Young, C.; Gray, D.; Evans, M. D.; Randles, M.; Zhu, Lan; Lobo-Bedmar, M. C. Human health courses at universities are facing different challenges to provide students with real laboratory experiences due to the combination of large course cohorts with a shortage of academic staff, resources and time. Future health professionals are encouraged to have a complete understanding of human anatomy and histology as well as to have some pathology and diagnostic skills including the necessary skills to use a microscope. However, students often find learning histology challenging as they usually need to learn how to use a microscope in a limited time during a practical timetabled with several peers, in which they are also required to undertake other activities such as tissue embedding, cutting and staining. To address these factors, different web-based resources have been made available to enhance learning of anatomy and histology, however they are directed to medical students so their use by non-medical students (e.g. pharmacy, biomedical science, nursing, etc.) is limited due to their complexity. As a result, De Montfort University (DMU, UK) is leading an international project to develop an on-line package for teaching and learning biology, named DMU e-Biology, which will cover not only the foundation but also the latest scientific knowledge on human biology. This novel resource is also equipped with a Virtual Microscope and a Virtual Laboratory. The Virtual Laboratory will present different subsections with a range of units regarding biomedical techniques and equipment, which will be developed following previous successful experience from the team. Units will be highly engaging and will contain short videos of academics and/or technicians working hands-on with equipment and/or techniques shown to bring the laboratory to the student’s house. Videos will be enhanced with audio and subtitles in English and the user will be able to complete a series of voluntary self-assessments throughout each unit to enhance engagement and self-assessment by providing the user with tools to evaluate their acquisition of knowledge. A subsection will cover all the elements to perform routine histological techniques in a biomedical laboratory, including the use and practicalities of the microtome, how to perform paraffin embedding and tissue sampling, and common staining techniques such as haematoxylin & eosin (H&E) and periodic acid–Schiff stain (PAS). The histology section will be publicly available from the DMU website in 2018 here http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk/ebiology/biologyLaboratory_units.htm. Additionally, this resource is supported by a virtual microscope in which the user will be able to explore a library of virtual histological slides from different human tissues and organs; the virtual microscope will transfer the practicalities of a microscope to study human histology. These resources will be tested with first year BSc Biomedical Science and BMedSci Medical Science students enrolled in the module Basic Anatomy and Physiology at DMU by implementing blended learning, i.e. a pedagogy that integrates e-learning resources and materials with formal teaching (lectures, workshops and practicals), as different studies have pointed out that this pedagogy can enhance self-learning and facilitate acquisition of knowledge and long-term retention of information. This paper will provide a description of these novel resources and explore their practicalities with non-medical science students. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.

Click here to view a full listing of Antonio Pena-Fernandez's publications and outputs

Key research outputs

Peña-Fernández, A., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., González-Muñoz, MJ. (2015) Annual and seasonal variability of metals and metalloids in urban and industrial soils in Alcalá de Henares (Spain). Environmental Research, 136, pp. 40-46.

Peña-Fernández, A., Silvey, V., Wyke, S. (2015) Chemical recovery navigation tool. Available at: http://legacyassets.phe.org.uk/tools/CRT_elearning/index.html [accessed 15/05/2015]. The Chemical RNT is embedded in this webpage: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/chemical-and-radiation-recovery-navigation-tool-cr-rnt [accessed 15/05/2015].

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. (2014) “Reference values” of trace elements in the hair of a sample group of Spanish children (aged 6-9 years) - are urban topsoils a source of contamination? Pharmacology and Environmental Toxicology, 38(1), pp. 141-152.

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. (2014) Establishing the importance of human health risk assessment for metals and metalloids in urban environments. Environment International 2014, 72, pp. 176-185.

González-Muñoz, MJ., Peña, A., Meseguer, I. (2008) Role of beer as a possible protective factor in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 46, pp. 49-56.

Research interests/expertise

  • Genetic and molecular characterization of parasites
  • Identification of parasites in clinical and environmental samples
  • Human and environmental monitoring
  • Environmental toxicology and risk assessment
  • Food and chemical toxicology

Areas of teaching

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biochemistry & Clinical Biochemistry
  • Microbiology 
  • Parasitology
  • Clinical Perspectives
  • Evidence Based Medicine

Qualifications

  • PhD (2011), University of Alcalá, Spain. 
  • MSc in Toxicology (2006), University of Sevilla, Spain.
  • Research Proficiency (2005), University of Alcalá, Spain. 
  • Teaching Proficiency Course (PGCE, 2002), Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.
  • BSc Chemistry (2000), University of San Pablo-CEU, Spain. 

Courses taught

  • Medical Science (BMedSci)
  • Biomedical Science (BSc)

Honours and awards

Second prize “Premio Cátedra Leche Pascual”. Work title: "Immunodiagnostic of canine leishmaniasis in the Madrid region: comparison of two methods". University of San Pablo CEU, October 2000.

Professional licences and certificates

Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), Teaching Agency, 2012 

Accreditation as Assistant Professor for the Service Charter of the Quality, Accreditation and Forecasting Agency of the Universities of Madrid, Spain (2012)

European Registered Toxicologist (EUROTOX). September 2013-2018

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). November 2016

Conference attendance

Peña-Fernández, A., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., Foxall, K., González-Muñoz, MJ. Presence and distribution of thallium in urban soils: human health risks. British Toxicology Society, Annual Congress 2015; Birmingham, UK.

Hossain, R., Foxall, K., Aldred, D., Peña-Fernández, A. Models used to assess acute exposure to lead in the environment. British Toxicology Society, Annual Congress 2015; Birmingham, UK.

Peña-Fernández, A., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., González-Muñoz, MJ. Determination of reference values of essential metals in children’s hair aged 6-9 living in the Community of Madrid, Spain: Cr, Cu, Mn and Zn. British Toxicology Society Annual Congress 2014; London, UK.

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. Possible reference values of carcinogenic elements (As, Be, Cd, Ni) in hair of children aged 6-9 years of the Community of Madrid, Spain. British Toxicology Society Annual Congress 2014; London, UK.

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. Environmental contamination of lead: challenges for protecting future generations. 50th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Edinburgh, UK, 7-10 September 2014. Toxicology Letters 2014; 229S:S121.

Peña-Fernández, A., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., González-Muñoz, MJ., Torrado, G., Peña, MA. Interest shown in environmental toxicology by postgraduate students of the specialty “Specialist in Industrial Pharmacy and Galenicals”. 50th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Edinburgh, UK, 7-10 September 2014. Toxicology Letters 2014; 229S:S122.  

González-Muñoz, MJ., Meseguer, I., Mateos-Vega, CJ., Benedí, J., Sánchez-Muñiz, FJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., Peña-Fernández, A. Aluminium intoxication and beer consumption: effects in the levels of trace metals in mouse brain. 50th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Edinburgh, UK, 7-10 September 2014. Toxicology Letters 2014; 229S:S70-S71.  

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. Is children’s hair a reliable matrix for determining environmental exposition to trace elements? - Establishing possible “reference” values. 50th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Edinburgh, UK, 7-10 September 2014. Toxicology Letters 2014; 229S:S222.     

Peña-Fernández, A., González-Muñoz, MJ., Lobo-Bedmar, MC. Elemental soil contamination in urban soils collected in Alcalá de Henares and the challenges of remediation. 50th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Edinburgh, UK, 7-10 September 2014. Toxicology Letters 2014; 229S:S122.     

González-Muñoz, MJ., Mateos-Vega, CM., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., Peña-Fernández A. Human monitoring: levels of lead in hair of children and teenagers - a study by sex and area of residence. II Toxicology Training Forum. Rev Toxicol 2014; 31:99-100.

Peña-Fernández, A., Mateos-Vega, CM., Lobo-Bedmar, MC., González-Muñoz, MJ. Feasibility of using hair from school children as a biomonitor of exposition to aluminium from urban soil. II Toxicology Training Forum. Rev Toxicol 2014; 31:100.

Case studies

Dr Peña-Fernández worked as a researcher in the following project supervised by Professor María José González-Muñoz at the University of Alcalá, Spain:

Possible protective effect of silicon content in beer in neurodegenerative diseases

Cerveza y Salud – Spanish newsletter

More information is available at: Centro de Informacion Cerveza y Salud website (Spanish) 

Antonio-Pena-Fernandez

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