A new network has been set up by an international collaboration of researchers looking at midge monitoring and control as a low-cost way of tackling bluetongue virus outbreaks in India where the virus is endemic.
Coordinated by The Pirbright Institute’s Dr Simon Carpenter and Dr Minakshi Prasad at Lala Lajpat Raid Univerisy of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, the India Bluetongue Vector Network (IBVNet) involves five UK-based and four India-based organisations. It is part of a £13M initiative looking at combating infectious diseases of livestock for international development (CIDLID) and has been developed with joint funding from BBSRC and the Department for International Development (DFID) with contributions from the Scottish Government.
The work of the IBVNet can be viewed on this short video filmed by Dr Carpenter on his latest trip to India, which shows local researchers learning how to set midge traps.
Having recently returned from his field trip to Southern India, lead researcher Dr Simon Carpenter from The Pirbright Institute (which receives strategic funding from BBSRC) explains: "In the UK we view bluetongue as an exotic disease, however in India the virus circulates almost continuously and is a major threat to subsistence farmers. The network brings together researchers from across the UK with their counterparts in India who have invaluable local knowledge of bluetongue epidemiology. We will combine our knowledge and skills to examine what determines midge abundance and which species transmit bluetongue virus between livestock."
Bluetongue virus is a major challenge for farmers across the world, having a major impact on animal productivity and an up to 30 per cent fatality rate in sheep flocks during epidemics. The virus is spread by biting midges, which thrive in damp conditions, so flocks in monsoon regions of the world are particularly at risk.
Dr Lara Harrup, a researcher from The Pirbright Institute, working on the IBVNet, said "We are working with researchers and farmers across India to establish midge surveillance networks, whereby local vets are trained to erect simple UV light traps to catch midges. Our UK partners can then use mathematical modelling to examine what determines abundance and look at whether the occurrence and severity of outbreaks can be measured.
"This information will then be used as an early warning system to predict major outbreaks of bluetongue in the future and drive vaccination programmes. In addition, we are also examining low cost methods that can be used to control midges that could be employed by subsistence farmers who cannot afford vaccines," she explained.
Dr Carpenter is confident that the findings gleaned from the IBVNet, will be beneficial in the global battle to tackle bluetongue virus.
Additional information on IBVNet is available at the following website: www.ibvnet.com.