Combatting bird ’flu by developing new diagnostic tools and vaccines is among a number of zoonoses research projects boosted by a new £20.5m funding programme from the Government.
News of the funding comes just days after thousands of birds were culled following an outbreak of bird ’flu at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire.
Three research projects at the Royal Veterinary College will also benefit from the Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems (ZELS) programme, funded by the Department for International Development, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.
Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary epidemiology at the RVC, will lead a project entitled Controlling and monitoring emerging zoonoses in the poultry farming and trading system in Bangladesh; Joanne Webster, professor of parasitic diseases at the college, will look at Epidemiology and evolution of zoonotic schistosomiasis in a changing world; and Javier Guitian, professor of veterinary public health, will spearhead research into Establishing a strategy to control brucellosis in dairy herds of West and Central Africa.
Three research initiatives at the University of Glasgow will be funded by the ZELS programme. They are:
- Looking at factors affecting transmission of zoonotic pathogens from livestock to people, by Sarah Cleaveland, professor of comparative epidemiology.
- Developing the evidence base to control brucellosis in sub-Saharan Africa, by Daniel Haydon, professor of population ecology and epidemiology.
- Food safety hazards in emerging livestock meat pathways (HAZEL), by Ruth Zadoks, professor in molecular epidemiology.
Two projects at the University of Cambridge will also be funded. James Wood, professor at the department of veterinary medicine, will lead research into Controlling bovine tuberculosis in Ethiopia and Duncan Maskell, professor of farm animal health, food science and food safety, will investigate An integrated approach for surveillance and control of zoonoses in emerging livestock systems.
Eric Fèvre, a professor at the Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, will head a project on Zoonoses in livestock in Kenya (ZooLINK) and Steve Torr, professor of neglected tropical diseases at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, will look at Tackling human African trypanosomiasis on the edge of wilderness areas.
The ZELS programme will also see £1.5m given to 15 students from the UK and developing countries for doctoral training in zoonoses-related research.
Zoonoses are estimated to have cost more than $20b (£12b) in direct costs globally between 2000 and 2010, with a further $200b (£127b) in indirect costs.
BBSRC’s science director Melanie Welham said the diseases not only threatened animal and human health, but had huge economic and social repercussions around the world.
“The ZELS programme will fund world-class research projects using expertise from the UK and international partners to address some of the critical challenges posed by zoonotic diseases,” she said.
“In addition, training doctoral students from the UK and developing countries will help create the skills needed for researchers to continue to tackle these damaging diseases.”