Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

  Most of the issues covered in the call for evidence concern human infectious disease which is the concern of the Medical Research Council, and not central to BBSRC's remit. However, BBSRC has responsibility for research into infectious disease in animals, and there may be lessons to be learnt from parallels between the two. Work on surveillance and the applied aspects of diagnostics and vaccinology of infectious disease in animals is the responsibility of DEFRA, undertaken in part by work they fund at BBSRC's Institute for Animal Health. The effectiveness of surveillance in infectious disease in animals has been the subject of intense scrutiny following the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and of swine vesicular disease, and is the subject of a number of reports (DEFRA, Follett, Anderson, NAO). Some of the problems identified may be relevant to surveillance systems for humans.

  Underpinning work on animal disease control is a priority for BBSRC, and there could be opportunities to co-ordinate approaches to epidemiology, diagnostics and vaccinology across man and animals, in which case there is significant work conducted at BBSRC's Institute for Animal Health that could be relevant. In addition, BBSRC is a sponsor of the Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research together with the MRC, Department of Health and GSK.

  In terms of zoonotic disease, there may be concern about rabies and West Nile Fever. One issue that is of potential concern to BBSRC is that emerging diseases that effect man might pose a threat to staff working with exotic animal diseases at IAH. The need for high containment is crucial.

  The Institute of Food Research (IRF), also sponsored by BBSRC, has submitted a separate, detailed response about the difficulties of countering food-borne infectious diseases. BBSRC endorses the content of IFR's submission, and draws particular attention to a key issue highlighted by the Institute, ie that measures to prevent or reduce the incidence of food-borne infections must address a moving target. The problem of food-borne zoonotic disease is a highly dynamic one, affected by many factors, including changes in agricultural production, food processing and consumer behaviour, as well as the continual evolution of pathogens.

  There will be an ongoing requirement for the coordinated national deployment of adequate skills in surveillance, diagnosis and epidemiology to counter food-borne infections. This is particularly important for detecting the emergence of new pathogens or more virulent strains of known organisms. There is also a need for better understanding of the fundamental biology of pathogens such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157 etc, and of their responses to biotic and abiotic environmental factors, and interactions with both their food animal and human hosts.

January 2003

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003