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Institute for Animal Health teams up with China

August 2011

BBSRC Partnering Awards to tackle global diseases

Animal diseases represent a major economic threat to countries worldwide and threaten global food security. Detecting and controlling infectious agents across national borders requires effective international collaboration, so the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has recently funded two China Partnering Awards (CPAs) between the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Centre (CAHEC), Qingdao, China, to foster links and cooperation to tackle emerging viral threats.

One was awarded to Dr Linda Dixon due to her work on pig disease African swine fever virus (ASFV); the other to Professor Satya Parida owing to his research on peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV), a virus that mostly infects goats and sheep. CPAs aim to set up partnerships between UK and Chinese research groups and to promote the exchange of scientists.

Workshop attendees in Haiko, China. Image: CAHEC

Workshop attendees in Haiko, China. Image: CAHEC

The awards funded UK participants' attendance of the Exotic Animal Disease Prevention and Control workshop held in Haikou, China, 7-10 June 2011. Eight UK scientists from IAH and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) were invited to give keynote presentations at the workshop, which was organized by China's Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, part of the Ministry of Agriculture.

With Chinese researchers and veterinary authorities from 10 Chinese provinces present, Dixon says the meeting was an excellent forum for interaction and a great showcase for IAH and BBSRC. "Especially the partnering awards. It will certainly encourage further collaboration."

Outbreak hit list

More than seventy attendees participated in the workshop, the main purpose of which was to review knowledge on the prevention, diagnosis and vaccine development of exotic animal diseases such as African swine fever (ASF), peste des petits ruminants, bluetongue, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and Newcastle disease, and to assess the risk factors of these diseases in the border provinces in China.

African swine fever is a deadly and growing threat. Image: US Dept of Agriculture

African swine fever is a deadly and growing threat.
Image: US Dept of Agriculture

Scientists are particularly concerned about the spread of ASF, which causes an acute haemorrhagic fever in pigs resulting in almost 100% mortality, and from Africa it is now established in Georgia, Armenia and the southern part of the Russian Federation. In spring 2011, the disease suddenly appeared in the port city of Murmansk, close to the border with Finland, and authorities in China (home to half of the world's pigs) are wary of the long shared border with the Russian Federation. "Knowledge on ASF is limited in China and the BBSRC partnering award will allow sharing of knowledge by IAH scientists with Chinese scientists," says Dixon. "The award will also facilitate establishment of joint research programmes and keep the UK up to date with the situation in China."

Group outside the CAHEC building. Image: CAHEC

From left to right: Dr Jingyue Bao (CAHEC), Dr Chris Rowland (IAH), Dr Fuquan Zhang (IAH), Dr Satya Parida (IAH), Dr Linda Dixon (IAH) and Dr Zhillang Wang outside the CAHEC building. Image: CAHEC

At the workshop, scientists from CAHEC introduced their preparations for the potential incursion of ASFV into China. Drs Linda Dixon and Fuquan Zhang from IAH gave presentations on ASFV basic research, diagnosis and vaccine development, and Dr Barbara Wieland, an ASFV epidemiology expert from RVC, addressed the risk factors related to the spread of this disease.

Drs Michael Baron and Satya Parida from IAH gave presentations on work involved in vaccine and diagnostic tools development and plans for global eradication of PPRV being developed by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. Dr Jingyue Bao of CAHEC described their role in detecting and controlling the spread of PPRV into Tibet.

Constructive discussions took place throughout the two days meeting between UK and Chinese colleagues, and further collaboration interests were identified.

IAH's Dr Don King and Dr Chris Oura gave presentations on FMD virus and bluetongue virus, as well as the role of IAH in controlling recent bluetongue epidemics in the UK and Europe. Dr Carrie Batten, also from IAH, explained the steps required in setting up and maintaining quality standards in reference laboratories. CAHEC Director Dr Zhiliang Wang gave an overview of exotic disease detection and control strategy in China, and Dr Lieu, also of CAHEC, presented work on molecular epidemiology of Newcastle disease virus in China.