The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), in collaboration with the University of Alberta, has been awarded a research grant to develop tools to control brucellosis, one of the world’s “most significant” zoonotic diseases.

The grant – from the Grand Challenges Explorations programme, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – will help John McGiven of the brucellosis reference laboratory at the AHVLA and David Bundle at the University of Alberta pursue the research project “Detection, Vaccination and Control of Brucellosis”.
According to researchers, brucellosis is one of the world’s most significant zoonoses with a “disproportionally high impact” on communities where animal production systems are intimately linked to the human population. In many regions, they said, it is an endemic and embedded disease that reduces human and animal health, resulting in economic losses and poverty. In Africa, for example, the prevalence of brucellosis in ruminants is estimated to be 12%, while in South Asia prevalence is 16%. 
The control of endemic brucellosis is achievable via mass vaccination. However, said the researchers, there are no vaccines for humans and swine and the vaccines for ruminants are live, unstable, require extensive quality assurance, possess residual virulence, and require the maintenance of a cold chain.
In the project, Mr McGiven and Prof Bundle propose to develop and evaluate a novel glycoconjugate vaccine for brucellosis that is safe, stable, cheap and efficacious. They will also look at complementary diagnostics to allow for the differentiation of vaccinated and infected subjects to assist in the control of the disease.
Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how persistent global health and development challenges are solved. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded twice a year, and successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1m.
Mr McGiven and Prof Bundle’s project was selected from more than 2,700 submissions. To receive the funding, they presented their idea under the topic “The ‘one health’ concept: bringing together human and animal health for new solutions”.

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