A new £1.5 million hub will support sharing of data on vector-borne diseases among the UK research community and with policymakers, to enable rapid responses to outbreaks and accelerate scientific discovery.
Infections spread by vectors such as mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks and mites, affect the health of humans and animals. These include familiar infections like Lyme disease, bluetongue and louping ill, which impact livestock, as well as those that may spread to the UK in the future, such as West Nile virus.
The One Health Vector-Borne Diseases Hub - comprising Imperial College London, The Pirbright Institute, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Liverpool and the UK Centre for Hydrology & Ecology (UKCEH) – to gather and share data on diseases.
It has been awarded £1.5m funding from Defra and UK Research and Innovation, via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Species carrying disease are expected to expand into more temperate regions that traditionally have not had to dealt with these infections, due to changing climates, land use and movement of people. This past summer, for example, Paris had to fumigate mosquitoes to stop an outbreak of dengue, which is normally confined to tropical regions. Over the next 20 years, the risk from these types of infections is predicted to increase in the UK.
UKCEH theoretical ecologist Dr Steven White, who forecasts future disease risk, explains: “Vector-borne diseases pose a significant threat to humans and animals both now and in the future. To understand these risks we need to build, parameterise, and validate cutting-edge models. This new data hub will help speed up this process and allow us to disseminate our results quickly and efficiently to the community.”
Preventing and controlling the spread of vector-borne diseases can be difficult, as the pathogens’ lifecycles often involve several domestic and wild animal species, and they can be very sensitive to environmental conditions. The Hub leaders are therefore taking a ‘One Health’ approach, which considers the impact of infections that occur in both animals and humans in an interdisciplinary way that encompasses an understanding of the role of the environment and global change.
The Hub will involve researchers from the medical, veterinary and plant sciences, bringing together data and expertise about humans, animals, the vector species that transmit pathogens between them, and the environment. It will establish relationships and networks across the UK to ensure that when a scientist makes a discovery, they know who to contact.
The Hub partners will conduct training sessions and events, as well as develop a web platform in collaboration with ArcTech Innovation .