Migratory birds are known to carry diseases such as avian influenza. An international program, the Avian Zoonotic Disease Network, seeks to detect and monitor pathogens traveling in birds along the Mediterranean and Black Sea Flyway, research aided by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo Courtesy LANL
A multinational effort is underway to understand and control the spread of disease among migratory birds. Called the Avian Zoonotic Disease Network, it is aimed at detecting dangerous infectious diseases and pathogens of pandemic potential, such as avian influenza. The timing is fortuitous, given that in early June China announced the first known human case of H10N3 bird flu.
“Partnering with Michigan State University, CRDF Global, and researchers from Georgia, Jordan and Ukraine, we’ll have a multidisciplinary team working along what’s known as the Mediterranean and Black Sea Flyway (MBSF), the main migration route for birds between Africa and Europe,” said Jeanne Fair, a project partner from Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Biosecurity and Public Health group and an expert in animal disease ecology and epidemiology.
The project is funded by a grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Biological Threat Reduction Program of the U.S. Department of Defense. Research will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of scientists, including bioinformatics experts, veterinary virologists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, statisticians, ornithologists and disease ecologists.
“Cooperative threat-reduction networks such as the Avian Zoonotic Disease Network are critical for meeting the challenges of detecting especially dangerous infectious diseases and pathogens of pandemic potential, such as avian influenza,” said Andrew Bartlow, another Los Alamos researcher on the project. “Through these cooperative networks, we can strengthen the biosurveillance capabilities with sequencing technologies and bioinformatics that can also be used to better understand the ecology of emerging diseases.”
The Avian Zoonotic Disease Network will be proactive in developing on-the-ground strategies and biosurveillance, Fair said. This includes investigating the prevalence of pathogens in migratory birds, examining the host and environmental determinants of infections, and implementing protocols across the partner countries to expand research capacity.
Funding: AZDN is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Biological Threat Reduction Program of the U.S. Department of Defense.
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