All animals, and livestock in particular, are subject to a number of infectious diseases. These range from common (yet economically important infections) such as footrot and mastitis, to invasive pathogens such as foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza. Work aims to bring together farm-based fieldwork, laboratory research, statistical analysis and mathematical predictions in an holistic framework, that addressed practical and policy challenges.
Current major reseach areas include:
Work has focused on the spread and control of Avian Influenza in the poultry industry and the potential spill-over into the human population. To fully understand the risks posed by Avian Influenza (ie H5N1, H7N9 or a novel strain) requires robust, well-parameterised mathematical models that can account for: the transmission of infection within and between wild birds and domesticated speices; the chance transmission to the human population; the risks of evolution and how these are influenced by farming practices. (PIs: Tildesley, Keeling).
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is one of the most complex, persistent and controversial problems facing the UK cattle industry, costing the country an estimated £100 million per year. On going theoretical work has developed and parameterised a detailed stochastic spatio-temporal model for the spread and control of bTB in Britain. The model is founded on the recorded cattle movements and combined most within and between farm transmission. In parallel, lab and field work is being undertaken to understand the role of badgers and the environment in the spread of the causative Mycobacterium. (PIs: Courtenay, Keeling).
Foot and Mouth Disease is one of the most highly transmissible of any livestock disease and therefore the outbreak in 2001 had the potential to catastrophically impact on both the farming community but also the national economy. We were involved in the 2001 outbreak, providing science based advice and predictions to the govenment. Since 2001 our modelling and statistical analysis has continued with three main themes: better statistical inference and analysis; optimal control by vaccination and spatially specific controls; and extending the approach to other countries. (PIs: Tildesley, Keeling).
Footrot is an infectious bacterial disease of sheep causing pain and lesions on the feet, and can result in severe lameness. This has obvious implications for animal welfare, and impacts on farm productivity and sustainability, with estimates suggesting the disease accounts for annual losses of up to £84 million to the UK sheep industry alone. Research in Warwick has suggested that the environment plays a key role in disease transmission and that the load of bacteria on a sheep’s foot is key to the development and persistence of disease. (See Lameness in Sheep webpage for more details). (PIs: Green, Keeling).
Pollinators provide vital pollination services both to agriculture and to wild plant populations. The global value to agriculture alone is estimated at €153 billion in 2005, much of this from managed honey bee populations. However, recent years have seen a global decline in honey bee populations, as they are threatened by a number of endemic and emerging diseases including: American & European foulbrood, small hive beetle, Tropilaelaps spp., and the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). Work in Warwick is developing mathematical models for the spread of these pests, as well as predators such as Asian hornets. (PIs: Keeling, Burroughs).
Rabies circulating in domestic dogs has been eliminated from the industrialised world, but remains a major public health concern throughout low and middle-income countries, imposing an enormous toll in human lives and economic costs. Following the global targets of zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030, elimination of the disease has become the ultimate goal for many control managers around the world. Scientific guidance for managing elimination programmes to ensure continued progress is, however, often limited and lacking in specific recommendations.
Combining extensive understanding of rabies dynamics with sophisticated quantitative tools will allow us to explore and evaluate the effectiveness of potential intervention options for disease management, ensuring that the resulting recommendations are practical and implementable for rabies stake-holders and practitioners in Southeast Asia. Our findings will, therefore, translate directly into global policy development, delivering context-specific guidelines for elimination efforts and sustained freedom. (PI: Tildesley).
Other recent research activities include: