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COMBAT-project fights animal parasitic disease

  • October 1, 2021

CIRAD, as coordinator of a consortium of 21 partners of which the VUB, has launched a new project to combat animal trypanosomosis, a parasitic disease transmitted by biting flies, including the infamous tsetse. VUB researcher Stefan Magez of the Department of Bio-engineering Sciences Cellular and Molecular Immunology coordinates this project for the VUB. It is funded with €5.9 million from the European Union's H2020 programme. 

Animal trypanosomosis (AT), caused by protozoans transmitted by tsetse and other hematophagous flies, is a major livestock disease in Africa. Climate change and globalization are likely to modify AT distribution, with a risk of spread to Europe. The goal of COMBAT is to reduce the burden of the disease in Africa by using the progressive control pathway (PCP) as a strategic framework. COMBAT will 1) improve basic knowledge on AT; 2) develop innovative control tools; and 3) improve AT surveillance and control. COMBAT will fill knowledge gaps on chemical ecology of tsetse flies, vector competence of hematophagous flies, and on the immune and metabolic response of tolerant/susceptible livestock breeds. The relationships between epidemiological data, vectors, livestock genetics and phenotypes, and the ecosystems and breeding systems will be clarified. New diagnostic methods will include on-site trypanosomal antigen detection for treatment decision, standardized specific antibody detection for surveillance, and molecular methods for species and drug resistance identification. Novel vector control technologies will target tsetse and hematophagous flies. COMBAT will enhance AT surveillance by strengthening data collection, reporting and analysis, and by establishing national and continental information systems. Detailed guidelines for roll-out of the PCP will be developed. The socio-economic burden of AT will be updated and geospatial models created to map disease spread risk in areas without surveillance and AT-free areas. The risk of AT in Europe will be assessed and operational guidelines prepared. COMBAT will include a strong capacity building component, targeting the academic community, veterinary services and decision makers. The consortium, with European and African centers of excellence, institutional stakeholders in 14 endemic countries, and international organizations at the global and regional level, will guarantee the successful implementation of the project.

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