We are very pleased to present the forth issue of the LinkTADs newsletter, which highlights the main achievements of the past six months, such as the organization of meetings, webinars, exchanges, dissemination events and other networking opportunities in the field of animal health in the EU and China. As the project is coming to its final stage, we would also like to stress our efforts to attain sustainability of the existing network through establishing long-term mechanisms.
In the past six months, the collaborations between Chinese and EU LinkTADs partners have been further strengthened and have already resulted in on-going projects and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs; details can be found below). Intensive international exchanges, visits, and training for young scientists were successfully organized, with more activities still up-coming. External experts and relevant industries were intensively involved in most of LinkTADs activities, especially the dissemination events in EU and China. This has resulted in widened collaborations at different levels, i.e. exchanges of information, visits and joint-activities.
During the final 6 months, the LinkTADs consortium will continue to expand the network and inspire new EU-China collaboration in the field of animal health. Toward this aim, a Focal Point Network was established and developed within the LinkTADs project as a unique support network of researchers and experts focusing on specific scientific fields.
In this newsletter, you will find a series of short articles on (past and future) project events, exchanges, webinars, reports, and tools in the field of animal health in the EU and China. Highlights in this issue include:
News: Including successful examples of LinkTADs collaboration, international exchange activities and meetings;
The Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute (SHVRI) and the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) signed up an official letter of agreement for collaboration on the project "Eco-epidemiology and risk analysis of genotype shift of Japanese encephalitis virus in pigs and mosquitos" funded by the Program of International Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation, Ministry of S&T of China (MOST). The purpose of this agreement is to establish clear guidelines and define the mutual rights and obligations of the parties during the preparation, organisation and supervision of the project.
Under this agreement, the SHVRI party shall bear the responsibilities for:
Providing epidemiological data, literature references and information necessary to build the protocol, as well as analyse and interpret the results.
Funding field trips, field studies and laboratory work planned in collaboration with CIRAD’s teams.
Participating in committees or meetings related to the project.
Providing laboratory commodities to analyse the samples and provide results associated to field studies.
Supporting the design of epidemiological studies.
Filling in the database with data obtained from the project during a 5-year period and shared with CIRAD.
Under this agreement, the CIRAD party shall bear the responsibilities for:
Supervising and realizing the design of epidemiological studies, statistical and epidemiological analyses and modelling.
Participating in the project committees or meetings.
Sharing the results of statistical analysis and modelling during the project.
Together, the parties' objectives are as follows:
To ensure the successful completion of the project, through effective supervision and general facilitation of collaboration.
To work together to produce scientific publications to be submitted to peer-review journals.
The Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (HVRI), the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute (SHVRI) and the National Veterinary Institute (SVA) are discussing collaborations on the development and validation of multiplex diagnostic assays for swine disease complexes, listed below. During the project, SVA visited SHVRI and HVRI, and vice versa. Importantly, a joint laboratory has been established between SVA-HVRI and SVA-SHVRI, and workshops have been organized to exchange scientific ideas and research achievements.
The current plan is an outcome of such continuous discussion. In the plan, several pathogens have been preliminarily considered of particular interests to both Swedish and Chinese societies:
Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRSS)
Swine influenza virus (SIV)
Classical swine fever virus (CSFV)
African swine fever virus (ASFV)
Porcine Respiratory Coronavirus (PRCV)
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV)
Pilot experiments will be performed in order to evaluate compatibility of different sets of primers and probes for simultaneous detection of both DNA/RNA viruses and bacteria in clinical samples. In the longer perspective, the developed diagnostic assays can be used to study the clinical effect of different combination of infectious agents in dual or triple infection experiments. For example, the agents listed above differ in pathogenicity from highly pathogenic to non-pathogenic. However, our hypothesis is that agents of low pathogenicity may pave the way for more pathogenic agents and that the combination of several agents has a more severe clinical effect than each agent alone. Furthermore, certain agents are opportunistic and the presence of other agents may cause a change from non-pathogenic to pathogenic in these opportunistic agents. The studies of combined infections may be called upon to determine the appropriate use of antibiotics. One of the many benefits of this collaboration is the difference in prevalence of certain agents. This gives us a good opportunity to test both specificity and sensitivity for new assays.
Planning of these activities is well under way and a workshop to be held in China is planned in the second half of June 2016. The workshop will be arranged by the three parties.
As part of Task 4.1 on 12-14 October 2015, a WP4 4th workshop was organized at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Headquarters in Vienna on New Diagnostic Technologies and Coordination of Research. The WP4 meeting on the new diagnostic technologies was held on 12 October 2015. Forty four participants attended the meeting, including 16 speakers, out of which 9 were external invited lecturers. All the presentations have been uploaded to the e-resources section of the LinkTADs website.
TThis first session covered some of the latest diagnostic technologies being developed and used, e.g. molecular platforms, high throughput technologies, next generation sequencing, bioinformatics, field applications, etc. The aim was to review and discuss the current development of the advanced laboratory technologies in the field of animal health, the main streams in the research field in the diagnostic area and the instruments and adaptations needed to integrate the updated diagnostic platforms into the on-going control strategies and programmes.
The second session on Coordination of Research (13 October) aimed to describe the main research initiatives in the EU, China and across the globe. The first two presentations were web-streamed through an open access platform, and were followed by 70 people in 21 institutions.
WP4 4th Workshop Participants
During the afternoon of the 13th October 2015 the participants visited the Animal Production and Health Laboratory (APHL) of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division in Seibersdorf, Austria. The participants were informed on the research activities of APHL in the field of ASF, PPR, AIV and Trypanosoma, the development and validation of diagnostic assays for syndromic diseases, as well as the adaptation of the advanced molecular platforms, such as the Ion Torrent NGS. The Technical Officers at the Seibersdorf laboratories also explained the role APHL has in the capacity building and technology transfer through the Technical Cooperation Programme of IAEA, as many of the Member States fellowships and training courses are organized at APHL. Additionally, a large component of the Coordinated Research Programme of IAEA, together with the partners in Member States, is performed at the facilities of the APHL in Seibersdorf.
The 2nd policy dialogue meeting was held on 14th October 2015 in Vienna organized by FAO IAEA with the support of SPI. The topic was Veterinary Laboratory Systems and Policy. Experts from the EU and China gave speeches on laboratory diagnostic network in EU and China, and policy and legislation in the field. Forty four participants attended the meeting, including 16 speakers, out of which 9 were external invited lecturers.
The 2nd Dissemination event under LinkTADs took place together with the Chinese Veterinary Congress (CVC) on 8-9 November 2015 in Fuzhou, China. It was co-organized by Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovacao (SPI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association. Dissemination meetings give the opportunity to researchers and other stakeholders working on animal health to meet LinkTADs partners, learn about the project’s activities and main achievements to date, as well as how they can benefit from LinkTADs networking, resources and collaboration opportunities.
The fight against animal diseases relies heavily on the research community developing new intervention/control tools and strategies. These could be in the form of new vaccines and diagnostics, or through a better knowledge and understanding of a disease to prevent its emergence and spread, and improve approaches to surveillance, prevention and control. It is also paramount that these two disciplines (i.e. laboratory sciences and epidemiology) are linked and coordinated in their work. International collaboration between animal health researchers can speed up these advances by bringing together new ideas, technologies, funds and expertise to solve livestock health challenges, thus optimizing the use of research resources. However, there are also many barriers that challenge joint projects.
LinkTADs 2nd Dissemination Event was organized together with the Laboratory Testing Session at the 6th CVC, Fuzhou Strait International Conference and Exhibition Center in Fuzhou, China. This year, CVC was combined with the 13th China international Agricultural Products Trade Fair. The congress had 10 sessions including more than 100 topics. Over 100 experts in the veterinary field were invited to give speeches/training to a professional audience of over 4,000. The meeting's emphasis was on recent research advances and multidisciplinary approaches for animal disease prevention and control. Being very much in line with LinkTADs' areas of interest, the meetings brought together a very relevant audience for the purpose of dissemination.
The LinkTADs session started with a presentation by Xin Dong, the project partner from the SPI, who introduced an overview of the project, its rationale, objectives, structure (i.e. work packages), major achievements to date, and how to use LinkTADs Online Cooperation Opportunities/Funding Database. This was followed by a presentation by Zhiyong Ma from Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute, CAS (SHVRI) on Japanese B Encephalitis Virus Detection Technology. Xue Han from the China Animal Disease Control Center (CADC) presented on research methods of veterinary epidemiology and basic indicators of disease measurement.
In the framework of the LinkTADs project, a webinar titled Epidemiology and Surveillance of Influenza A(H7N9) was held on 20 March 2016 in English, using a bilingual presentation (English-Chinese). Over 30 participants registered for the webinar, including professionals from the China Animal Disease Control Centre (CADC) and the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center (CAHEC), China Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (China FETPV), trainers and trainees from national and provincial veterinary agencies, and participants from veterinary colleges and research institutes worldwide. The FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) country teams in the region also participated.
The 45 minute presentation was given by FAO’s Global Surveillance Coordinator, Sophie von Dobschuetz, who first set the scene by providing the background and current epidemiological knowledge of influenza A(H7N9), which emerged in China as a zoonotic virus in March 2013. As of 15 March 2016, a total of 751 human cases had been reported, of which 294 had a fatal outcome (39 percent case fatality rate). Most cases reported a history of direct or indirect exposure to live domestic poultry at live bird markets (LBMs). Through active surveillance, the H7N9 virus was detected in live birds and the environment of LBMs and, to a lesser extent, on farms. Dr von Dobschuetz then moved on to explain the basics of risk-based surveillance and reviewed risk factors pertinent to the H7N9 virus. A very important characteristic is that infected birds shed virus without showing any clinical signs. This "silent" infection increases the likelihood of undetected virus spread, and consequently of human exposure. Therefore, passive, event-based surveillance cannot be applied for the early detection of H7N9 in poultry populations. Instead, surveillance needs to follow a risk-based approach for early detection, with active sampling and virological testing, targeting those geographic areas, markets and production systems at highest risk of virus introduction.
The presentation concluded with remarks on the importance of surveillance activities being designed around clear objectives and that surveillance has to trigger action; therefore results need to be produced, shared, analysed and followed up in a timely fashion. An open question and answer session at the end benefited from very active participation. Of particular value was additional information provided by Chinese participants on poultry value chains and the design of the national surveillance system. The question of why highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5 subtype spread quickly in the region (and beyond), while circulation of H7N9 still seems to be confined to China was discussed in detail. In this regard, colleagues from CAHEC mentioned the local importance for consumer preference of chickens of the yellow-feathered type, the species mainly implicated in H7N9 epidemiology and spread within China. Exclusive local demand for these birds and associated higher prices may be the reason why the virus has had less opportunity to spread beyond borders.
"As coordinator of WP3 of the LinkTADs project, I really enjoyed the second year of the project. It was really nice to attend the workshop in Qingdao where we used participatory methods to identify future potential collaborations on animal and zoonotic diseases. For most participants it was the first time to use this kind of method and the mix of surprise and interest was great. Some colleagues even claim that they will use these participatory methods to stimulate the discussions in their research teams. Giving to everyone the opportunity to participate and to give her/his opinion through "post-it" grouping and ranking or coin pilling was an effective way to support discussions. The concept notes drafted during this workshop and finalized later in 2015 are a good basis to develop project proposals together.
Another satisfaction is the good synergy between LinkTADs WP3 trainings and the Chinese FETPV program. Organising the LinkTADs field epidemiology training as part of the training of trainers in the CFETPV program made a lot of sense and really increased the impact of the project. We are sure it will be the same in 2016 with the WP3 analytical epidemiology training that will be again imbedded in the CFETPV program.
Overall, the project is going well and one of the best signs of its success is the beginning of this new project on Japanese encephalitis epidemiology funded by the Chinese Ministry of Science and technology, led by Shanghai Veterinary research Institute (SHVRI) and involving SVA and CIRAD. At CIRAD, we had no collaboration with SHVRI before LinkTADs and it is a great opportunity to work with them. Our knowledge in epidemiology is really complementary to their competencies in laboratory sciences, and it is one of the main goals of LinkTADs to bring together Chinese and European scientists while bridging the gap between epidemiology and laboratory sciences."
As LinkTADs entered its third (and final) year of implementation in October 2015, in order to maintain the project’s sustainability for the future, Europa Media has been busy developing technical solutions for the activities within the LinkTADs Focal Point Network.
LinkTADs Focal Point Network is an informal support network created to assist Chinese and European scientists working in the field of coordinated animal health and food security research. Towards this aim, LinkTADs partners (leading veterinary research institutions in the EU and China) have invited scientists and other professionals with wide experience in EU-China cooperation in the animal health field to become Focal Point members. In addition, the Network also includes managers who are active in international cooperation and have information on European and Chinese funding opportunities supporting international research cooperation.
Europa Media has created a separate section on the LinkTADs website dedicated to the Focal Point Network. You can learn more about its members and, most importantly, you can address your questions directly to them. No registration or authorization is needed, simply type your name, email address and your message and choose the field of Focal Point Member’s expertise you are interested in.
For example, you can address your questions to the epidemiologists or laboratory experts in the EU and China; you can also inquire about relevant funding opportunities or simply request updates on EU-China cooperation in the animal health field. Once the relevant Focal Point Network member receives your questions, he or she will send a reply to the email address you specified.
Alternatively, you can subscribe to the monthly alerts which will be circulated by the LinkTADs Focal Point Network. The first monthly alert will be distributed in February in the form of an email containing concise important updates on EU-China cooperation in the field of animal health, food security and veterinary issues. To subscribe, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be included into the FPN user group.
China FETPV training joint-course with LinkTADs will be held in Qingdao from 25-29 April, 2016. The objectives are to understand theoretical and practical application for the evaluation of disease surveillance systems and introduce available tools to conduct qualitative and quantitative evaluation. The core topics include reflection on and review of the progress of trainees' field practice tasks and evaluation of disease surveillance systems. Topics covered include:
Introduction to evaluation of animal health surveillance;
Framing the evaluation protocol using the EVA tool;
Importance of the functional evaluation attributes;
Participatory methods to assess functional attributes;
Introduction to Economic evaluation of animal health surveillance;
Risk-based approach application with practical examples;
Launched in February 2015, DragonSTAR Plus (http://www.dragon-star.eu/dragon-star-plus/) is a project financed by the European Commission under the new Horizon 2020 programme, which aims on providing services to both European and Chinese researchers, and on offering a flexible platform to support the policy discussions between the European and Chinese stakeholders. The project is led by the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, with a consortium of 13 partners (nine from Europe and four from China).
The project will seek to upgrade the operation of the NCP and RCP network in China; enhance EU-China cooperation by improving access to Horizon 2020 and Chinese funding opportunities of EU and Chinese researchers; promote technology transfer in China; design future scenarios for China’s research and innovation landscape up until 2030 utilizing current trends; and provide recommendations for future STI policies.
A wide range of services and events have been and will be implemented and organised during the 3 year lifetime of the project to reach the aforementioned objectives. In 2015 there were two webinars, one on "China-EU Collaboration in Food, Agriculture and Bio-technology" and the other on "Participation in Chinese Research and Innovation Programmes" organized by SPI, who is also a partner of the LinkTADs consortium. The 3rd project webinar is planned to be in May. Further information will come out soon.
"EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion" is a unique pan-European initiative which delivers information and support services to professional researchers. Backed by the European Union and its Member States, it aims to support researcher mobility and career development while enhancing scientific collaboration between Europe and the world.
"EURAXESS Links China" is a networking tool for European researchers active in China and for Chinese researchers wishing to collaborate and/or pursue a career in Europe. "EURAXESS Links China" provides information about research in Europe, European research policy, opportunities for research funding, EU-China and international collaboration, and for trans-national mobility. Membership is free.