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Grants to Be Released for Ecology and Evolution of Infections

04 October 2013

UK & US - A collaboration between BBSRC, the USA's National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded more than $16M in Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) grants.

The EEID program supports research to understand the ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC chief executive, said: "Tackling the infectious diseases that threaten the health of humans and livestock is a critical need, especially in the face of a growing global human population expected to reach nine billion by 2050.

"We face many challenges related to food security and health. These EEID projects will combine international expertise to help us find solutions."

Projects funded through the EEID program allow scientists to study how large-scale environmental events - such as habitat destruction, invasions of non-native species and pollution - alter the risks of emergence of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases in humans and other animals.

This year's EEID awardees will conduct research on subjects including honeybees and their parasites, the evolution and spread of virulent infectious diseases, the macroecology of infectious disease, and the persistence of foot-and-mouth disease.

Sam Scheiner, NSF EEID programme director, said: "Our understanding of the ecology and evolution of pathogens comes from knitting together information from many different sources.

"They include diseases of humans, frogs, honeybees and plants. Each system provides a different piece of the puzzle that helps us protect human health, the health of our agricultural systems and that of our natural world."

Researchers supported by the EEID programme are advancing basic theory related to infectious diseases, and improving understanding of how pathogens spread through populations at a time of increasing environmental change.

The benefits of research on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases include development of theories about how diseases are transmitted, improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects, increased capacity to forecast disease outbreaks, and knowledge of how infectious diseases emerge and re-emerge.

Christine Jessup, EEID program director at NIH's Fogarty Center, said: "This year's EEID projects bring together multiple scientific fields to address how human and natural processes influence infectious diseases in humans and other animals, including diseases that affect wildlife and agriculture, as well as those of significant public health concern in the developing world.

"Findings from EEID-supported research are improving public health interventions and management decisions."

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