03 April 2014 - Animal diseases have increasingly become major global health threats. This is due to factors of change like trends in unregulated livestock intensification, climate change, trade and globalization. The need to increase information exchange amongst nations and research institutes on pathogen behaviour is crucial to preventing, early detection and controlling the emergence and spread of animal diseases.
The international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS) is an association that is working towards improving communication and exchange between disease surveillance networks in different areas of the world. In 2012 Professor Nigel Lightfoot, an expert in medical microbiology and ex-Chief Advisor for Emergency Response at the Health Protection Agency, was appointed Executive Director of CORDS, Lyon, France. On 3 March 2014, Professor Lightfoot met with the Animal Production and Health Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.
With a view to encouraging global exchanges of information relating to animal disease threats, FAO’s animal health service seeks to create connections with NGOs such as CORDS that could lead to future collaborations in order to improve knowledge in the field of disease surveillance and reporting. Often surveillance infrastructure and capacities for the early detection and identification of diseases is unavailable in developing countries. By opening communication channels between research institutes and veterinary associations across national borders, CORDS acts as an important conduit in the early detection of diseases.
CORDS has identified six major regional networks in four regions (Europe, Near East, South East Asia and Africa) for disease surveillance around the world and seeks to explore increased mechanisms to develop conduits between the animal and public health sectors. The NGO has elaborated a number of strategic priorities, including: i) improving capacity through knowledge generation and sharing; ii) promoting innovation through publishing and sharing of innovative results; and iii) building sustainable networks. CORDS is also working under the global One Health initiative allowing the animal health community to communicate findings on potential emerging public health threats internationally, via the NGO's website.
FAO along with the World Health Organization (WHO) are observers as United Nations Technical Bodies on the CORDS Executive Board. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is a CORDS member. FAO is now seeking to create a strategic partnership with CORDS in order to link their activities at a regional level through the preparation and implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding for which some specific areas for collaboration have been identified, including: i) information sharing; ii) supporting a network in Central and South Asia; iii) training in risk analysis and communication; iv) mapping and developing networks; and v) using mobile phone technologies to enhance surveillance and reporting. Specific activities on disease surveillance was also discussed as well as the support needed for brucellosis in East Africa. By joining forces, FAO and CORDS will be creating a way to transcend the compartmentalization of animal health surveillance systems, benefiting the community at large and improving early warning and prevention which support the resilience of livestock communities and consumers around the world.