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NIH funding success

WIDER is part of an international consortium that has just recieved funding from NIH to examine H5N1 circulation in China and Thailand.

The proposal is built around three specific aims: (i) to develop spatially-explicit models of within and between farm HPAI dynamics accounting for different trade-related and water-borne transmissions by incorporating different connectivity structures in the models, (ii) to quantify the spillover of influenza at the human – livestock – poultry – wild bird interface, and (iii) to assess scenarios and control options that may reduce virus transmission and spillover between different hosts, and reduce the overall exposure to HPAI viruses.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 persists in a number of countries in Asia and Africa and continues to evolve in wild birds, domestic poultry and humans. Recent laboratory results showed that re-assortment between HPAI H5N1 and human H3N2 influenza virus may result in a hybrid virus with substantial virulence and that H5N1 influenza viruses can acquire the capacity for airborne transmission between mammals. The spillover of avian influenza at the human-animal interface remains a major public health concern.

Although the spatial epidemiology of past influenza epidemics has now been studied extensively, the conditions of emergence of the HPAI H5N1 virus remain poorly understood, and can be traced to regions where high densities of poultry, people and wild birds co-exist in landscapes undergoing fast agriculture intensification processes. The long-term goal of this proposed study is to improve our capability to predict the transmission dynamics and spillover risk of avian influenza at the human-animal interface and to improve risk-based influenza surveillance, preparedness, responses, intervention, and public health policy-making. We believe that a paradigm shift from macro-scale (country) correlation-based approaches to farm and landscape-scale process-based studies would result in significant progress in our capacity for modeling and prediction. The study areas of this project are (1) Poyang Lake, Jiangxi Province, China and (2) Thailand. These two countries differed in H5N1 dynamics, history, and control strategies (e.g., poultry vaccination and biosecurity measures like restriction of poultry movement). This proposed project is centered on three specific aims:

  1. Quantify avian influenza transmission dynamics between multiple poultry farms
  2. Quantify the spillover risk of avian influenza at the human – poultry – wild bird interface
  3. Assess various scenarios and interventions that affect transmission dynamics and spillover risks

The work involves a large scale international interdisciplinary team, led by Prof Xiangming Xiao at Uni Oklahoma, and involving researchers in USA, UK, Belgium, China, Thailand and at FAO