National Reference Centre for the Scientific Research in Infectious Diseases at the Animal/Human interface – WOAH Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Animal/Human Interface

Diseases at the animal/human interface

The National Reference Centre and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Animal/Human Interface have been appointed in August 2008 and June 2009, by the Italian Ministry of Health and the WOAH, respectively.

Understanding the interactions between animals and humans and their ecosystem – including the microbiome – is critical in preventing outbreaks of zoonotic disease. As stated in the WHO web site:

A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment. They represent a major public health problem around the world due to our close relationship with animals in agriculture, as companions and in the natural environment. Zoonoses can also cause disruptions in the production and trade of animal products for food and other uses.

In the recent past, zoonotic pathogens have been responsible for the majority of the emerging disease events and the diseases they can cause have the potential for significant morbidity and mortality in animals and humans.

The Centre has been excelling in the last decades for its commitment in establishing and maintaining scientific networks for the early diagnosis and research on pathogens that may emerge from the animal reservoir. The synergic collaboration between human and veterinary medicine, as well as scientific and technical cooperation programmes, promoting interdisciplinary synergies, networks and data sharing on the research, prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses have been all strategic activities of the Centre.

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Activities and services

The Centre is firmly committed to work as part of a wider network with other WOAH Collaborating Centers, especially those working in the topic of zoonoses.The Centre’s experts are leading and active researchers helping the Collaborating Centre to provide scientific and technical assistance and expert advice on topics linked to diagnosis, surveillance and control of the zoonotic diseases.

They also provide scientific and technical training for veterinaries, technicians and students, and coordinate scientific activities in collaboration with other laboratories or organizations to strengthen their capacity in the field of zoonotic diseases.

Diagnostic capabilities

Centre’s capabilities include laboratory techniques for the conventional diagnosis and the complete characterization of zoonotic pathogens as well as for the serological investigations in sera of animal and human origins.

In addition, molecular techniques (RT-PCR, real time RT-PCR sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing) and bioinformatics tools to study pathogens’ evolution as well as host genetic characteristics are currently used.

The Centre has access to biosafety level 3 laboratory and animal facilities for birds, small mammals and pigs.

Mandate of the WOAH Collaborating Centre

  • To provide services to the WOAH, in particular within the region, in the designated specialty, in support of the implementation of WOAH policies and, where required, seek for collaboration with WOAH Reference Laboratories
  • To propose or develop methods and procedures that facilitate harmonisation of international standards and guidelines applicable to the designated specialty
  • To carry out and/or coordinate scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other centres, laboratories or organisations
  • To collect, process, analyse, publish and disseminate data and information relevant to the designated specialty
  • To provide, within the designated specialty, scientific and technical training to personnel from WOAH Member Countries
  • To organise and participate in scientific meetings and other activities on behalf of the WOAH
  • To identify and maintain existing expertise, in particular within its region
  • To establish and maintain a network with other WOAH Collaborating Centres designated for the same specialty, and should the need arise, with Collaborating Centres in other disciplines
  • To place expert consultants at the disposal of the WOAH

News from the IZSVe on diseases at the animal/human interface

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