Research network wins approximately £5.7 million to target human and animal diseases in Africa

July 01, 2009

Deadly diseases including plague, Ebola and Rift Valley Fever are being targeted as part of a new multi-million pound international partnership involving African researchers and the London International Development Centre (LIDC). The Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS) links medical and veterinary institutions from five African countries and the UK to improve the capacity of African institutions to detect, identify and monitor infectious diseases affecting humans and animals, including new infectious human diseases of animal origin.

SACIDS will primarily be supported by a grant of approximately £5.7 million announced today by the Wellcome Trust - the UK's largest charity - under its African Institutions Initiative. The SACIDS network, involving researchers from Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and the UK, was launched at its Secretariat meeting at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, on 31 March. The collaboration has also received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and Google.org.

SACIDS has made a 'smart partnership' with the London International Development Centre (LIDC) - a collaborative project bringing together social and natural scientists from six University of London colleges. Two of these colleges - the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) - are to support SACIDS in various ways, including helping to develop courses and research skills for African researchers. This interdisciplinary partnership embodies the 'one health' approach, which promotes collaborations between human and animal health sectors. The link between SACIDS and LIDC also fulfils many of LIDC's aims to address complex international development issues by promoting interdisciplinary research, creating new teaching programmes, establishing partnerships with institutions in the developing world, and helping to build capacity in low- and middle-income countries.

SACIDS' work tackles a woefully under-resourced and important sector. Most major infectious human diseases have animal origins and up to 80 per cent of emerging infectious human diseases come from livestock or wild animals, yet Africa currently has the least capacity to survey major livestock or wildlife diseases. Livestock provide a vital source of nutrition, financial security and status in the continent, but livestock production is severely limited by disease. Many of the world's worst livestock diseases, such as Foot and Mouth disease, are indigenous to Africa.

The Wellcome Trust grant will provide funds for SACIDS to:Professor Mark Rweyemamu, Executive Director of SACIDS, Professor at Sokoine University and a Visiting Professor at RVC, stressed the necessity of the SACIDS initiative. He said: "The 'one health' collaboration between medical and veterinary sectors helps us to focus our common resources to study the shared problem of infectious disease. The 'smart partnership' between SACIDS and the LIDC colleges will marshal the best science expertise to the study of infectious diseases in the endemic setting and to identify new and emerging diseases early". Professor Jeff Waage, Director of LIDC, said "LIDC's member institutions are excited at the prospect of building a 'one health' platform for research and training with SACIDS members in Africa."

SACIDS has also won financial backing for analysis of national preparedness for disease outbreaks across the human and animal health sectors from the Rockefeller Foundation, on which LIDC will also assist. The SACIDS secretariat is funded with money from Google.org.

LIDC's partnership with SACIDS is part of its larger effort to break down barriers between agriculture and health research to encourage an integrated approach to complex international development problems. LIDC helps to develop critical interdisciplinary cooperation for international development by developing research and training programmes between the University of London's six Bloomsbury Colleges (Birkbeck, Institute of Education, LSHTM, RVC, School of Oriental and African Studies, and The School of Pharmacy) and developing country institutions.

LIDC has a growing portfolio of inter-College and interdisciplinary working groups investigating topics including: emerging and zoonotic diseases, linkages between agriculture and health, access to medicines in developing countries, and Distance Learning for Development (DL4D).
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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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