EPIZONE European Research Group (ERG) is the international network of veterinary research institutes working on epizootic animal diseases including those which may have zoonotic potential. It plays a key role in research on prevention, detection and control of animal diseases and zoonoses in order to reduce the risks and harm to animal health and the risks to public health in the EU and beyond.
During recent years, the risk of introduction and spread of new infectious agents in the EU has increased due to global travel and trade. In addition, global warming is likely to increase the risk of spreading of arthropod borne (tick and midge) diseases. Borders pose no obstacle for diseases. Therefore, international cooperation is needed to develop innovative and rapid control strategies that combat animal diseases such as bluetongue, swine fever or foot and mouth disease.
EPIZONE brings scientists together and thereby improves understanding of different regions concerning animal related food production in the various member states. As a result, scientific opinions and recommendations are internationally based, agreed upon and accepted. EPIZONE functions as a platform and provides a think-tank of highly qualified scientists who develop new strategies and tools to face future challenges.
EPIZONE endorses the OneHealth concept, the overarching initiative to bring together research on animal health, public health and environmental health.
In general EPIZONE focuses on infectious animal diseases of poultry, swine, fish, sheep, cattle, horses and wildlife, and also on infectious agents of the animals which may have zoonotic potential.
The EPIZONE goal is to improve, standardise, and develop (new):
- diagnostic methods
- vaccines, intervention strategies
- surveillance, epidemiology studies
- risk analyses
This is for better prevention and control of infectious animal diseases like foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, classical swine fever and arthropod borne (tick and midge) diseases such as bluetongue, Schmallenberg virus, African swine fever, African horse sickness, Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever and West Nile fever.
Using the solid research network, the EPIZONE experts aim to identify the infectious diseases with the highest risk of introduction early on. Knowledge of these risks increases our chances of avoiding introductions of such diseases. Potential routes of introduction can be shown by means of geo-information systems.
Rapid action at all levels and in all aspects is crucial to combat animal diseases. Communication and sharing knowledge and experiences is essential in supporting each other to combat animal diseases. EPIZONE continues to strengthen its research networking by:
- Keeping the EPIZONE website up-to-date.
- Regularly sending out a newsletter.
- Organising an annual meeting.
- Integrating young scientists via its Young EPIZONE programme.
- Offering workshops and other events.
- Maintaining the EPIZONE database.
Examples of success
After the introduction of bluetongue in 2006 in Europe, there was an immediate exchange of protocols, materials and knowledge, which would have taken much more time in the absence of the established network of EPIZONE. The network quickly responded to requests from international organisations such as the FAO (within EPIZONE), WHO, and OIE, by providing access to experts, sharing experiences, and making standardised detection methods available to the affected countries.
When the outbreak of Peste des Petits Ruminants in Morocco became a threat for Europe in 2008, EPIZONE organised a ring trial among EPIZONE partner institutes, disseminated reference materials and distributed a test kit in order to prepare institutes prepared. Again, in 2011, at the start of the outbreak of Schmallenberg virus, scientists of EPIZONE found each other easily and relied on one another to exchange and share knowledge.
Expanding the EPIZONE community
In May of 2012, the successful EPIZONE EU Network of Excellence for Epizootic Disease Diagnosis and Control (2006-2012) turned into the European Research Group (ERG). It was established to keep the successful EPIZONE community together and even expand it. Continuing the international fruitful cooperation should also enable us to generate extra research funding.
The majority of the founding partners of the former Epizone NoE together with a number of new partner institutes are the full partners, beneficiaries, of the EPIZONE ERG. The founding partner institutes participate in cooperative research and support the ERG financially. Professor Wim van der Poel of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in the Netherlands continues to be the coordinator of EPIZONE.
EPIZONE ERG is open to new (candidate) partners and associates. Read about becoming an EPIZONE member.