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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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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.