Novel Technologies for Surveillance of Emerging and Re-emerging Infections of Wildlife
Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society is one of 13 partners involved in the four-year EU-funded (FP7) 'WildTech' project, which aims to develop novel technologies for the surveillance of emerging and re-emerging wildlife diseases. The project commenced in July 2009, and is being led by the University of Nottingham. Other partners include universities, government agencies and biotechnology companies from across Europe, including the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Clondiag, and Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut. The main objectives of the project are:
- To develop DNA microarray technology to detect known infectious agents in wildlife populations, through the identification of pathogenic DNA within a biological sample
- To develop DNA microarray technology to detect and identify novel and unknown infectious agents in wildlife populations
- To develop high-throughput serological methods to screen wildlife populations for infectious diseases, through the identification of antibodies in biological samples
- To use these new technologies to assess the spread of diseases
- To develop a state-of-the-art wildlife disease management system with mapping capability for use in Europe and beyond
- To establish a framework for pan-European surveillance for wildlife diseases
The project is focussed on 32 pathogens, which were selected due to their prevalence in the major host species in Europe (hare, wild boar, deer and urban rodents) and the impact that the resulting diseases have on domestic animals and human health. The list of five priority pathogens (on which more detailed information will be provided) includes Mycobacterium tuberculosis (bovine TB), West Nile Virus (West Nile fever), and Bacillus anthracis (anthrax). The ultimate aim of the project is to develop high-throughput tests for pen-side screening so that a biological sample can be analysed for the presence of several pathogens in a single test. Data obtained by these new methods, combined with historical information on disease prevalence, will be used to model the spread of diseases and develop an action plan to reduce the risk of future epidemics.
Twycross Zoo provides information on the health and management of captive and free-ranging animals and emerging infectious diseases via the Wildpro electronic encyclopaedia and library, and the Zoo's role in the WildTech project is to collate information on the priority pathogens and diseases so that it can be made available to wildlife professionals worldwide.
This project is supported by the European Commission under the Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology Theme of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, grant agreement no. 222633.