The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has announced its involvement in a new major UK research consortium, convened to battle bird flu following unprecedented outbreaks, which have led to more than 100 cases in the UK this year alone.
The group is comprised of eight of the UK’s top scientific organisations, including the RVC; Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA); The Pirbright Institute; Roslin Institute; University of Cambridge; Imperial College London; University of Leeds; and University of Nottingham.
The consortium has been awarded £1.5 million of government funding to bolster research projects and develop new strategies to effectively tackle bird flu outbreaks. The findings from this research will also be shared with international partners to enhance global risk mitigation and better inform current efforts to tackle the disease.
This work will be led by Dr Guillaume Fournié, senior research fellow; Dr Sarah Hill, research fellow in genomic epidemiology (Infectious Diseases); Professor Nicola Lewis, Professor in One Health Evolutionary Biology; Dr Eve Houghton, and Dr Ivo Syndicus, both postdoctoral research fellows in Social Sciences.
The team will also be joined by Dr Jayna Raghwani, who will be joining the RVC in September as senior postdoctoral researcher.
Dr Fournié said: “The scale of the incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in the UK and Europe over the winters 2020-21 and 2021-22 makes it necessary to review gaps in our understanding of the dynamics of these viruses, and especially the role of wild birds in spreading, and potentially maintaining, their circulation.
“As part of this project, the RVC will contribute to improve our understanding of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus dynamics in wild bird populations, at the interface between wild birds and domestic poultry, and its potential to cause large outbreaks among farms.
“This information will allow us to inform the design of more targeted surveillance activities and risk mitigation interventions better tailored to the UK poultry sector.”