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Linking Epidemiology and Laboratory Research on Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses in EU and China (LinkTADs)

 

Launched in November 2013, LinkTADs is a €1 million and three-year initiative funded by the European Commission’s (EU’s) Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). It coordinates European and Chinese research on animal disease prevention and control.


China's exponential economic growth over the last decade, coupled with its rising population and progressive urbanization, has lead to a sharp increase in the demand and consumption of animal products. To meet such a growing demand for animal protein, livestock production has changed considerably (e.g. intensive farming), international trade of animals and animal products has grown dramatically, and agricultural areas have expanded at the expense of wild habitats. Today China is the world's largest livestock producer and consumer.


These economic, social and demographic shifts increase the potential for new pathogens to emerge, grow and spread on a global scale, and sometimes posing also a threat to public health, i.e. zoonoses. The resulting diseases can spread over long distances and have an enormous impact on trade. Therefore, the effective prevention, control and eradication of these infectious transboundary animal diseases (TADs) is crucial for safeguarding and securing national and international food supplies, local livelihoods and human health.


The fight against animal diseases relies heavily on the research community developing new intervention/control tools and strategies. These could be in the form of new vaccines and diagnostics, or through a better knowledge and understanding of the disease to prevent its emergence and spread, and improve approaches to surveillance, prevention and control. It is also paramount that these two disciplines (i.e. laboratory sciences and epidemiology) are linked and coordinated in their work.


International collaboration between animal health researchers can speed up these advances by bringing together new ideas, technologies, funds and expertise to solve livestock health challenges, thus optimizing the use of research resources. However, there are also many barriers that challenge joint projects. LinkTADs is the last of a number of initiatives that have been developed over the past decade to assist in the coordination and facilitation of research between the EU and China.