Global Agriculture

Additional funding for research on diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks

  • Animal Plant Health Agency secures £2.35 million to improve the UK’s research capacity and capability around vector-borne disease.
  • Four research projects will launch to monitor and control tick-borne diseases, investigate the transmission pathways of mosquito-borne viruses, and assess the risks of tick-borne disease through rewilding and reforestation.
  • Projects align with APHA’s continued One Health approach to researching and protecting animal and plant health.

16 May 2023, UK: New research will get underway into the diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks with an extra £2.35 million for projects led by the Animal Plant Health Agency.

These diseases, known as vector-borne diseases (VBD), are a major threat to global animal and human health. Causing in excess of 700,000 deaths each year, they account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases. Although the impacts of VBD are felt mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, there are risks in the UK due to a number of different factors – from changes in land use to a changing climate.

The funding will support two APHA-led projects, including TickTools – a three-year project backed by £1.2 million to develop the tools to monitor and control tick-borne diseases. APHA will bring together researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow and investigate the basic biology of tick-borne pathogen – from tick host interactions, improved vaccines to prevent disease and diagnostic methods to detect infection.

The other APHA-led project Vector-Borne RADAR (Real-time Arbovirus Detection And Response) is a three-year £1.15 million project, which brings together the UK Health Security Agency, Institute of Zoology and the British Trust for Ornithology to combine field and laboratory-based research to investigate mosquito-borne viruses. The project will improve understanding of how these viruses emerge in new environments, enhance surveillance of diseases in wild birds in the UK and develop an early warning system for disease outbreaks.

APHA will also be supporting two further projects, including helping to improve interventions and producing recommendations for minimising risks of tick-borne diseases through rewilding and reforestation.

Ian Brown, APHA Director of Scientific Services said:

APHA’s world-leading scientists and staff play an important role in protecting the UK from growing biosecurity threats such as vector-borne diseases – this funding will develop our research further.

Working in collaboration with research organisations and institutions, we will be able to reduce the threat to human, animal, plant and environmental health posed by these diseases.

Defra co-funded the vector borne disease research call alongside UKRI, providing £7 million investment into this research.

Defra Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Gideon Henderson said:

The funding for this important research, which brings together a wealth of expertise from some of the best scientific institutions in the UK, will continue to build and prepare the UK for the emergence of endemic and exotic vector-borne diseases.

This coordinated scientific effort forms part of the UK’s commitment to work at the interface between environmental, human and animal health to improve outcomes for all.

The funding is being provided by Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. They also recently provided a £4 million investment into 10 innovative projects focused on international animal health research, funding projects that support cross-cutting research and innovation to better understand zoonoses, focusing on the animal, human and environmental interface.

This funding supports the One Health approach to address threats to public and animal health and the ecosystems that interlink them. This is directly aligned to APHA’s mission to protect animal and plant health to benefit people, the economy, and the environment.

The results of this research will provide evidence to Defra and the Scottish and Welsh governments to develop policies to further protect the country.

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