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Zoonotic Disease Research

Evidence based design for influenza virus surveillance

Influenza viruses in animals pose threats to human and animal health worldwide. Despite fundamental advances in understanding influenza virus evolution and virology, the what, when, and where of the next human influenza pandemics and major epizootics remain unpredictable. For pandemic preparedness, human influenza surveillance primarily focuses on influenza virus subtypes (H5N1, H7N9) that have been observed to infect humans but which have not yet developed the ability to sustain human-to-human spread. While there is a critical need to study these viruses, there is no evidence to suggest that these viruses will cause the next pandemic. This project, which involves partners from WHO, FAO/OIE, and public and animal health laboratories around the world, is working to quantify the global variation in cross-species transmission risk to identify key information gaps and priority areas for influenza virus surveillance.

Understanding influenza A virus: linking transmission, evolutionary dynamics, pathogenesis and immunity in pigs

Swine influenza is a significant disease of pigs. Concern over the potential for swine influenza viruses to infect humans (in part due to the  recent 2009 H1N1 human influenza pandemic originating from swine) has led to the widespread destruction of animals in some countries as well as trade bans that have caused considerable loss of livelihood in low and middle income countries. Vaccination will be a key control measure for influenza in pigs to improve general herd health and potentially to reduce the likelihood of further pandemic virus emergence. Our researchers are currently collaborating in a large BBSRC funded study, led by Bryan Charleston at the Pirbright Institute, to improve the understanding of how the influenza virus evolves within individual pigs and is subsequently transmitted.

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ETHICOBOTS (Ethiopia Control of Bovine Tuberculosis Strategies)

This project (www.ethicobots.com) aims to deliver a greater scientific and socio-political basis for the control of zoonotic mycobacterial infections spreading from the emerging dairy industry in Ethiopia. Our researchers are working to develop useful, socially and economically acceptable controls of bovine tuberculosis, based on a sound understanding of the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of the disease in Ethiopia. The programme, which involves senior scientists from both Ethiopian and UK government research institutes, will inform local and international policy.

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Integrated management-based approach for surveillance and control of zoonoses in emerging livestock systems: South East Asia Pig & Poultry Partnership

Human populations repeatedly face new infectious disease challenges, many of which are of animal origin (zoonotic) and then become endemic in animal and human populations. These zoonotic risks may be worsened by rapid development and diversification of livestock production systems now occurring in low- and middle-income countries, especially in South East Asia. These emerging livestock systems (ELS) are linked to peoples' changing food consumption habits, economic status, aspirations and population shifts, and to political contexts. Key features of ELS include intensification of animal keeping, increased use of antibiotics, and extended supply chains - all of which can have disadvantages from a food safety perspective.  We are leading an international, interdisciplinary consortium from Myanmar, Viet Nam and the UK to develop an integrated management-based approach for surveillance and control of zoonoses in emerging livestock systems in South East Asia, a hotspot for zoonotic disease emergence. The programme focuses on bacterial diseases of pigs and includes study of antimicrobial resistance.

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Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa: Ecosystems, livestock/wildlife, health and wellbeing

This project investigates the link between disease regulation and ecosystem services: how disease is affected by changes in biodiversity, climate and land use, with differential impacts on people's health and wellbeing. The Consortium, which is led from the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, has investigated this hypothesis in relation to four diseases, each affected in different ways by ecosystem change, including Lassa fever in Sierra Leone, henipaviruses in Ghana, Rift Valley Fever in Kenya and trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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A multivalent vaccine and single platform diagnostic for bacterial respiratory diseases of pigs

The worldwide economic/welfare burden resulting from bacterial respiratory diseases of pigs is enormous. Control of infection is hampered by the lack of effective vaccines and diagnostic tools. This research program concerns 4 major bacterial respiratory pathogens of pigs: A. pleuropneumoniae, H. parasuis, M. hyopneumoniae and S. suis. All cause substantial mortality and morbidity in pigs worldwide. Additionally S. suis causes severe outbreaks of human infection. There is an international imperative for improved diagnostics and vaccines for all these pathogens. A multi-centre, integrated approach is being used to develop a multivalent vaccine and single platform diagnostic for the four bacteria. The major deliverable will be to reduce animal suffering and the economic and welfare burden of disease in the pig industry.

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Effects of Nod-like receptor activity on protective immunity against Salmonella infection

A central part of any strategy to reduce diseases such as salmonellosis must be intervention to induce the immune system to prevent infection or to clear infection rapidly. This is currently achieved by vaccination or immunotherapy. Alternative strategies include breeding animals for disease resistance traits or transgenic expression of genes to enhance bacterial clearance. To generate new vaccines, improve current vaccines or to pursue genetic modification we must understand the mechanisms by which immunity is induced. Pathogen recognition by host pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) activates innate and adaptive immunity. This project is studying human PRRs (Nod-like receptors) in chickens to determine whether these PRRs contribute to species-specific host responses to salmonellae.

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A new framework to study the impact of antimicrobials on the within-host dynamics of bacterial infections.

Infections that are not completely eliminated from the host tissue can cause relapse, particularly in immunodeficient adults and children. Alternatively, the infection can become chronic, and increase the duration of pathogen transmission  from infected individuals. This project will exploit the tractability, relevance and broad applicability of the mouse model of Salmonella infection to understand and quantify the effects of different antibiotics on the dynamics of growth, spread, persistence and relapse of bacterial infections, in order to optimize and rationalise the treatment of infectious diseases.

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The Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research is funded by the Wellcome Trust. In close collaboration with The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, it supports researchers working in public health and tropical medicine to develop their careers, and foster interchange between institutions in the UK and those based in low- and middle-income countries.