Partner 12 – Institute of Animal Health (IAH)
IAH, Pirbright, UK. The Vector-borne disease programme (VBDP) led by Professor Philip Mellor and including Dr Simon Carpenter has a world-wide reputation at the forefront of research concerning Culicoides-borne Orbiviruses and houses the EU community reference laboratory for BTV. The Entomology and Modelling Group, led by Dr Carpenter, contains the UK vector Culicoides reference laboratory, a centre of taxonomic excellence whose outputs include the recently launched www.culicoides.net open-access internet facility. The group specialises in number of research areas including the planning, co-ordinating and running of Culicoides population surveys, using methodologies that it successfully established and coordinated at an EU scale during recent years. During the BTV-8 incursion of BTV into the UK in 2007, the group combined a similar ecozonation-based scheme with temperature-related BTV replication limits, to enable the declaration by Defra of a ‘transmission-free period’, allowing a relaxation of animal movement restrictions. This saved the UK farming industry millions of pounds in lost trade and significantly lessening the social impact of BTV. In addition, subsequent analysis allowed a date for potential BTV re-emergence in 2008 to be set7, which was used as a means of applying pressure to vaccinate during the subsequent voluntary scheme. This ultimately proved to be extremely successful, preventing the re-emergence of BTV-8 in 2008 with massive economic benefits for UK farming (estimated independently at approximately £500m and 10000 jobs). Additional areas of success within the group include the identification of efficient and novel vectors that had previously been thought to be of low epidemiological importance in transmission of BTV. This new understanding had highly significant implications for risk assessment of BTV and similar diseases in the northern Palaearctic regions, including the UK, as it clearly demonstrated, prior to the incursion in 2006, that there was potential for a BTV outbreak to occur. Finally, the group has wide experience in the application and dissemination in the field of control measures against Culicoides both in the UK and overseas. This experience is supplemented by the position of IAH as one of only two centres worldwide maintaining fully self supporting colonies of vector Culicoides, enabling detailed and continuous year-round involvement in a wide range of laboratory-based vector studies.