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CID partners in holistic research to tackle zoonoses in Africa

last modified Oct 03, 2012 09:53 AM
Cambridge Infectious Diseases has become a key partner in an innovative, multidisciplinary £3.2m research consortium exploring the connections between ecosystems, health and poverty in Africa.

The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium sees James Wood, Professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science at Cambridge University, working with other natural scientists as well as a range of social scientists, including anthropologists, economists and geographers, in a unique integrated approach to understanding zoonoses – those diseases which pass from animals to humans.

More than 60% of emerging infectious diseases over the past few decades have been zoonotic. While some quietly devastate poor people’s lives and their livelihoods, others have the potential to create dangerous global threats. However, diseases that affect poor people, including zoonoses, are often under-measured and therefore under-prioritised by those who determine national and international health systems.

The Drivers of Disease programme will, through fieldwork and modelling work, generate vital new knowledge on the impacts on zoonotic disease of ecosystem change such as climate change and habitat loss, ecology, and the interactions between humans and animals. This will provide the evidence base for informed and integrated ‘One Health’ approaches to disease control. The aim is to draw out new opportunities for policy, institutions and interventions to help people move out of poverty in Africa as well as other areas of the world.

The programme engages with Professor Wood’s major current focus, studying the emergence of RNA virus infections from bats and how they might spread to domestic animals and humans, particularly in West Africa. He will be working closely with the programme’s team in Ghana considering the potential spillover, from bats to people, of the henipavirus.

Drivers of Disease is also considering the Lassa fever virus in Sierra Leone, the Rift Valley fever virus in Kenya and trypanosomiases in Zambia and Zimbabwe. It will consider how each of these four zoonotic diseases are affected in different ways by ecosystem changes and have different impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and livelihood.

The Consortium, which comprises 19 partners in all, is funded by Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) for three and a half years. Other partners are as follows: in the UK, the ESRC STEPS Centre, Institute of Zoology, University of Edinburgh and University College London; in Ghana, Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and University of Ghana; in Kenya, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the University of Nairobi and the Department of Veterinary Services; in Sierra Leone, Kenema Government Hospital and Njala University; in Zambia, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the University of Zambia; in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Agriculture and the University of Zimbabwe. The Stockholm Resilience Centre and Tulane University, US, are also partners.

ESPA is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).