Brussels, 24 Jun 2004
The European Commission is providing 12 million euro for a new project funded under the thematic priority 'Food Quality and Safety' of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) that aims to improve the quality of animal products.
Starting on 1 September and for the next five years, EADGENE (European Animal Disease Genomics Network of Excellence), will create a virtual European laboratory to study the genomics of host-pathogen interactions.
Bringing together 14 partners from ten countries, the network will be dedicated to the major farm animal species, including farmed fish.
'Improving the health of farmed animals is a pressing issue for Europe. At the moment, European husbandry leads the world in efficiency and animal welfare, but livestock everywhere are prone to disease. Traditional therapies, such as antibiotics and anti-worm treatments, are becoming less effective as pathogens continue to develop resistance to them and there is increased pressure to cut down the use of drugs in order to reduce the risk of them entering the food chain,' explained Marie-Hélène Pinard van der Laan, the project coordinator from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in France.
EADGENE will, therefore, look into developing new control methods to keep animals healthy and prevent diseases, many of which also infect humans and affect food.
Genomics will be the focus of the project because it provides opportunities to breed genetic resistance into animals and develop new vaccines as well as rapid diagnosis.
As Dr Pinard van der Laan explained, 'the genome holds a lot of promise for animal health. Identifying animal genes used in defence against disease makes it possible to screen for resistance, so animals with natural immunity can be identified and bred quickly. Knowing which genes in infectious agents are responsible for the ill effects enables the development of live vaccines in which the disease causing genes can be disabled or removed while preserving the potency of the vaccine. Studying the behaviour of genes during disease leads to a better understanding of the interaction between a pathogen and the animal's immunity, which may in turn assist in drug development. In diseases that are currently untreatable, such as paratuberculosis in cattle, these methods offer new hope.'
However, not only is the use of genomics in agriculture and aquaculture still in its infancy, but it is also a high cost science. Thus the EADGENE network is committed to a progressive pooling of resources and facilities and the integrating of research strategies.
The 14 institutes will initiate joint research and training programmes on major diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and other parasites in pigs, cattle, chickens and farmed fish. It is hoped that the multidisciplinary approach will also enhance the partners' understanding of human disease and ensure that Europe retains its status as a world leader in animal welfare.
For more information on the project, please contact:
Marie- Hélène Pinard van der Laan