Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Liverpool center leads the way in zoonotic research

Farmer’s Guardian (UK): ….Understanding the mechanisms by which zoonotic diseases are transmitted from animals to man and from man to animals brings together many different disciplines, yet, until now, there has not been a national centre for their study, says veterinary pathologist, Prof Malcolm Bennett.

Newly appointed co-director of the newly opened National Centre for Zoonosis Research based at Liverpool University Leahurst veterinary field station, … Prof[essor] Bennett... said that until the opening of the new centre – believed to be a world first – collaborative work on zoonosis diseases depended largely on networking between workers at different centres both in the UK and abroad. The study of zoonoses involved not only veterinary and human medicine but also disciplines including ecologists, social studies, biologists, and statisticians.

Supported by a £1.7 million grant from the North West Development Agency, former graduate accommodation at Leahurst has been converted to provide administration and lecture facilities plus a suite of laboratories within the main Leahurst building. The laboratories are built to Category 3 standard and include a bacterial zoonoses laboratory.

“We think that an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional approach to zoonosis research is essential – while they are all diseases of human beings, zoonoses originate in domestic and wild animals, and so it is not enough merely to understand their epidemiology in people. This recognition that the infectious diseases of human animals and non-human animals are interlinked, related, and even the same, has led to the concept often known as ‘one world, one health.’ That human beings are animals and share the world with other animals, makes zoonoses inevitable.

….“Some of these will have the potential to evolve into what we might call proper human diseases, transmitted routinely from one person to another, without the involvement of other animals. The response to this cannot be simply to wipe out all potential sources of zoonoses. Infectious agents are part of our environment, and we are part of a global ecosystem that creates that environment. Our environment feeds and clothes us, and produces the oxygen we breathe. Indeed we are walking microbial ecosystems.

“Infectious diseases, especially zoonoses, are an inevitable outcome of sharing a planet with other species. It means recognising that trade-offs, in terms of what we want from our environment, are inevitable. It therefore also means that smarter control methods need to be developed, based on an understanding of ecology, evolution… and an overview of human wellbeing not just health,” said Prof Bennett.

….“Zoonoses are becoming increasingly important both with climate change and increased travel. It is also not just a case of animals, but bits of animals carrying disease. Part of our role will be to develop models for these diseases which can be used to quantify risk factors which in turn can be used in the response to and treatment of these diseases….

Foot and mouth disease virus coating protein, illustration by David S. Goodsell of the Scripps Research Institute, Wikimedia Commons

No comments: