Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people and are responsible for serious public health problems. Many are foodborne and carried by domestic livestock, such as salmonella. Research has found that nearly two-thirds of known human pathogens are zoonotic.
"Control of these diseases is being hampered by 'divisions' between the medical and veterinary sciences. Scientists monitoring outbreaks in humans appear to be out of touch with those who monitor the diseases on farms. Tracing sources and predicting outbreaks is difficult under any circumstances," said André Jestin, the project co-ordinator from the French food safety agency AFSSA.
But for the first time under the Sixth Framework Programme, a 'network of excellence' will connect medical and veterinary expertise on all zoonoses, "a move that will significantly improve our ability to understand and control these diseases", added Jestin.
The network, MED-VET-NET, will receive €15 million from the European Commission over the next five years and will involve 150 scientists from ten EU countries. The project will lead to the development of a virtual institute for the integration of European veterinary, medical and food science.
At present, CORDIS reports that the fragmentation of resources and expertise is a major problem in the study of zoonoses. Annually, tens of thousands of samples are collected from farms and hospitals by different institutes, but they are rarely compared. The aim of the network is to make better use of resources by sharing facilities internationally, centralising archives of reference material and standardising procedures to enable information to be pooled.