Animal health researchers highlight gaps in disease control
Dozens of experts and stakeholders from across Europe gathered in Brussels last week to discuss important knowledge gaps in animal disease control as part of the Discontools project.
Decontools (DIsease CONtrol TOOLS) is an open access database designed to help public and private funders of animal health research identify research needs and develop research agendas. It has moved from a project funded by the EU-7 Framework Program to a joint initiative of the animal health industry and a wide range of stakeholders including the research community, regulators, international organizations, veterinarians and farmers.
The long-term goal is to provide new control approaches and new or improved vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tests to reduce the burden of animal disease.
Improving animal health is a key factor in addressing today’s global challenges, but at the same time, global changes such as increased mobility of people and animals, changing consumer behaviors and climate change alter the risk of disease and lead to the emergence of new pathogens. The public and private sectors are mobilizing to meet these challenges and invest in research for the development of new solutions in animal health.
The event in Brussels brought together experts from academia, government and industry to examine the research gaps identified and designate disease-specific as well as cross-cutting research gaps that are expected to be filled over the next decade. .
Stéphan Zientara, director of the joint virology research unit at ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety, underlined the important role of Discontools in the advancement of control measures against well-known diseases (eg tuberculosis) as well as emerging diseases (eg bluetongue, West Nile, African horse sickness). Discontools will be an important resource to underpin the animal health priorities envisaged during the French EU presidency, he said.
Discontools project leader Johannes Charlier said that despite significant progress over the past decade, a pressing need persists for the development of stable and sustainable diagnostics, basic research to find breakthrough solutions for diseases and information on the resistance mechanisms of bacterial and parasitic pathogens to meet the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.
Nigel Swift, Global Head of Veterinary Public Health at Boehringer Ingelheim, explained how public-private partnerships (PPP) in animal health can strengthen public health systems as a whole. He said some of the best vaccine developments have come from public-private collaborations. “However, PPPs contribute not only to vaccine research and development, but also to disease control and eradication, for example in disease surveillance and response capacities.”
Alex Morrow, Secretariat Coordinator of the STAR-IDAZ International Animal Health Research Consortium, presented roadmaps for candidate vaccines, diagnostics, therapies and control strategies to better align future research calls and to avoid duplication of efforts. He also announced new roadmaps in preparation for the search for therapeutic alternatives to antibiotics and the transmission of vector-borne diseases.
Jean-Charles Cavitte from DG AGRI (Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission) and Hein Imberechts from the Sciensano research institute in Belgium, said previous European R&D projects did not always deliver the desired control tools. Therefore, Europe must step up collaboration between Member States to foster new knowledge, new control tools and support the development of evidence-based policies in animal health and welfare.
The event ended with a round table discussion with animal health stakeholders on the definition of research priorities in diseases and cross-cutting research and on how Discontools can continue to play a role in supporting the programs. strategic research. Nancy De Briyne, Executive Director of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) pointed out that this is an impressive resource to help tackle some of the big challenges in breeding today: avoiding diseases, reduce the climate footprint, reduce the use of antibiotics and make farming more respectful of animal welfare. “It’s important to look at these challenges holistically and invest in ‘One Health’.
“Discontools helps here by showing by disease which prevention tools (eg vaccines) are available and which can be advised by veterinarians making regular visits to farms. However, even with the best preventative measures in place, animals can still get sick, so we shouldn’t lose sight of the diagnostic tools and treatment options that will always be needed, ”said De Briyne.
Influenza was pointed out at the meeting as one of the most important epizootic diseases. Professor Timm Harder of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute said that different animal influenza viruses hold considerable zoonotic potential and that a swine influenza virus caused the most recent human influenza pandemic in 2009.
“A better understanding of animal influenza is necessary to ensure the production of safe food products (agro-economy), to optimize intervention strategies such as biosecurity and vaccine protection of farms (epidemiology), to reduce the risks of zoonotic influenza virus (public health), and to protect wild bird populations against poultry viral incursions (conservation-ecology).
In an original duo presentation, professors Diana Williams of the University of Liverpool and Jozef Vercruysse of the University of Ghent, discussed the harmful effects that parasites of the gastrointestinal tract (endoparasites) continue to have on agricultural systems. herbal all over the world. They said pest control is increasingly threatened by resistance to pest control drugs and patterns of infection altered by climate change, land use and agricultural practices. They pointed out that by investing in better diagnosis, the development of vaccines and improved therapies, a range of complementary control options and integrated control practices can be developed, which would alleviate dependence on anthelmintics as the sole method of control. control.