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New model for vector-borne disease
The model enables a better understanding of the impact of biting midges.

Model can distinguish between midge and animal movement

A new model that can determine vectors for bluetongue and Schmallenberg virus has been developed by scientists at The Pirbright Insitute. Researchers hope the model could be applied to other diseases to help better inform control strategies.

Writing in PLOS Computational Biology, researchers use the model to establish that 90 per cent of bluetongue transmission between farms is a result of midge dispersal, while for Schmallenberg it is 98 per cent.

“Previous models used to study the 2007 bluetongue outbreak in the UK were able to show how the disease spread, but were not sophisticated enough to determine the primary route of transmission which is crucial in helping to bring an outbreak under control quickly,” explained Dr Simon Gubbins, group leader for transmission biology at the Institute.

“Our new model is able to distinguish between disease that is spread through midge movement and through animal movement. For both viruses, we have shown that insect movements account for the majority of spread between farms. Animal movements play an important role in introducing disease to new areas, but they cannot sustain an epidemic on their own.

“Importantly, the approach we have established for BTV and SBV could also be applied to other diseases spread by biting midges”.

Bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus infect cattle and sheep, causing huge economic losses to farmers across the world. Both diseases are vector-borne, meaning they need another organism to aid transmission between animals. Until now, however, it was not clear whether biting midges or the movement of animals made the most significant contribution to transmission.

Researchers say that by enabling a better understanding of the impact of biting midges and animal movement in transmission, the new model will help ensure outbreak control strategies and procedures are better informed.

It may also change the way livestock movements are controlled and will enable more accurate predictions about the spread of an outbreak and where it would be best to vaccinate.

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Sale of microbeads now banned

News Story 1
 The sale of products containing microbeads is now banned across England and Scotland, Defra has confirmed.

As part of government efforts to prevent these plastics ending up in the marine environment, retailers can no longer sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads. These tiny plastics were often added to products including face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.

Just a single shower is thought to send 100,000 of these beads down the drain and into the ocean, where it can cause serious harm to marine life. A ban on manufacturing products containing microbeads previously came into force in January this year. 

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News Shorts
George Eustice announces funding for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

Farming minister George Eustice has announced a 5.7million funding package to help farmers tackle Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

The funding will be available in England for three years through the Rural Development Programme and farmers will be able to apply for one-to-one farm advisory visits by a veterinary practitioner.

The project will recruit local vets who will then work with keepers of breeding cattle to tackle BVD on their farms.