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Investigating the Spread of Infectious Diseases With NSF, NIH, U.K. Funding

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 07:30 AM
Contributors: NSF
The National Science Foundation
EEID scientists work to answer questions like how HIV spread from monkeys to humans.

Original Source

New research aimed at controlling the transmission of diseases among humans, other animals and the environment is being made possible by grants from a collaboration among U.S. and U.K. funding agencies.

By improving our understanding of the factors affecting disease transmission, the projects will help produce models to predict and control outbreaks.

Funding is from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease (EEID) Program.

It is also being provided by the U.K. Ecology of Infectious Diseases Initiative of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and U.K. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Combined, the grants total $17 million.

Research supported by the U.S.-U.K. collaboration aims to combat diseases that are particularly prevalent and damaging in the developing world, especially those transmitted from animals to humans, called zoonoses.

About 75 percent of recently emerging diseases are infections that may be transmitted between animals and humans. They pose serious threats to human health and to global food security.

Projects will draw on expertise from both the biological and social sciences to help public health workers in the developing world combat the emergence and spread of disease.

For example, scientists will conduct research on the transmission of bacterial diseases that cause fever in Tanzania, with the hope of developing better control strategies.

Another project will investigate the spread of a viral disease related to HIV in colobus monkeys. The researchers hope to gain insights into how HIV was initially transmitted from animals to humans.

Other projects aim to further an understanding of how viruses evolve to infect their hosts.

Researchers in the U.S. will also investigate white-nose syndrome in eastern bats, sudden oak death in western trees and parasitic diseases in west coast estuaries.

"The research funded through this program stretches from an understanding of host-pathogen co-evolution, to better management of California forests threatened by disease, to knowledge of viral transmission in African monkeys that will provide answers about the emergence of HIV/AIDS," says Sam Scheiner, NSF program director for EEID. Funding for NSF's contribution to the program primarily comes from its Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences, as well as its Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.

Researchers hope to gain insights into why some viruses infect a number of different organisms, whereas others are specialized to infect just one.

"A multidisciplinary approach to understanding disease transmission dynamics is critical for the prediction, prevention and control of emerging and reemerging disease threats," says Christine Jessup, EEID program director at NIH's Fogarty International Center. "This year's projects address how human and natural processes influence infectious disease dynamics that are of global health concern, while building capacity for global health research."

"Infectious diseases pose a worldwide threat to the health of both humans and livestock that requires an international solution, " says Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of BBSRC. "By coordinating the expertise of a diverse range of scientists in the U.K. and U.S., these projects will help farmers and officials in the developing world manage this threat."

"Addressing the social and economic implications of infectious diseases, along with their biological implications, is essential to developing a comprehensive understanding of this key global challenge," says Paul Boyle, chief executive of the ESRC.

"This trans-Atlantic initiative creates an opportunity for the best U.K. social scientists to collaborate with the best researchers from the U.S., and for them to develop strategies to help health professionals and policy-makers within and beyond the U.K. to combat existing and emerging diseases."

 

 
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