The Pirbright Institute is to play a key role in a new international project funded by the European Commission, to fight the mosquito-transmitted diseases now threatening Europe.
The Infravec2 Project is an international consortium of 24 partner institutions coordinated by the Institut Pasteur, Paris.
Pirbright and its scientists have a world-leading reputation in the study of insects and the viruses they spread, and will be leading on one of the Infravec2 work `packages’. One of the key aims of the project will be to establish new experimental standards for insect infection studies and the Pirbright-led work package will be one of those helping to determine them.
The lack of internationally recognised standards is acknowledged to be a major scientific problem as it prevents the reproducibility of results between different laboratories. This means that the real-world significance of laboratory studies can be uncertain, impeding efforts to predict and control disease. It will also broaden access to key infrastructure for the wider European research community.
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other insects are a major concern for public health and economies globally. Traditionally these only used to affect those living in tropical regions but the insects that spread them are now moving into more temperate regions such as Europe. Insects such as Culicoides biting midges that spread livestock diseases like bluetongue and Schmallenberg, can also have a devastating social and economic impact and pose an immediate threat to the UK.
Dr Anthony Wilson, Group Leader for Integrative Entomology (the study of insects) at Pirbright, who will lead the Institute’s programme of work for the project, said: “Diseases do not respect borders and international collaboration like this are the most effective and efficient way to combat the disease threats facing the UK and the world in the 21st century.
“The cutting edge high containment laboratories that we now have at Pirbright, have given us a new capability to work with high impact human pathogens. The Infravec2 project is a great opportunity to use these facilities to support international research into vector-borne diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya, which are increasingly moving into new areas.
“As well as supporting scientists in other countries, the funding for this project will also benefit research at Pirbright and elsewhere by improving how we design and perform insect infection experiments so they better reflect the consequences of real-world variation”.
The Infravec2 project is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructure Programme and will be officially launched in Paris on 15-17 March 2017. The project will continue through to 2021. In the longer term the aim is to build a robust network of facilities which will enable Europe to respond more effectively to insect-transmitted disease epidemics and to predict and prevent future ones.