DEFRA lead global animal disease project

The launch of a global network of scientific research by DEFRA this week will better protect the UK against animal diseases such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth.

The government body is leading a €1m EU-funded international network, linking thousands of scientists across the world. It will allow them to exchange research, establish common goals and collaborate on developing future controls. It will also underpin early warning systems by identifying what emerging diseases are being picked up abroad.

DEFRA said the major diseases of concern were avian flu, the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and African swine fever. The network will also help develop control measures for current problems such as TB or drug-resistant parasites.

Speaking ahead of the launch on Wednesday (11 May), farm minister Jim Paice said the resource would offer the UK maximum protection and value for money, something that was important because of global movements of food, people and animals increasing animal disease risks in the UK.

Mr Paice recognised that while the UK already had international surveillance and outbreak plans in place, the country must prepare for the challenges in five, ten and fifteen year’s time.

And it’s hoped the global network will make a real difference to the health, welfare and productivity of livestock, said UK chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens.

“Global coordination of our animal disease research efforts will help ensure new technologies – such as diagnostic tools, vaccines and new treatments – are identified and put to work as quickly as possible to make a real difference to the health, welfare and productivity of livestock.”

DEFRA is already leading on a similar EU network where member states work towards a common research agenda and share funding instead of acting unilaterally. So far it has initiated 12 research projects worth €21million – €3.9million of which was contributed by the UK.

Countries involved with the global network include Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and the UK. It will be divided into three regions – the Americas, Asia and Australasia, and Europe – and surrounding countries are expected to feed in. It is hoped an Africa region will follow.

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