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Leading experts form consortium to tackle avian flu
The move follows a year of unprecedented bird flu outbreaks.
Eight UK organisations join forces to find new ways to control the disease.

A new major research consortium dedicated to tackling avian influenza has been announced.

Comprising eight of the UK's top scientific organisations, including the Pirbright Insitute and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), the consortium will be responsible for developing new strategies to tackle future avian flu outbreaks. 

The move follows a year of unprecedented cases of the disease, with 100 in the UK alone. Scientists hope that, through collaboration and knowledge exchange, the consortium will help find strategies to control the spread of disease.

Among the key aims of the project include: 
  • monitoring current flu virus strains; 
  • understanding the spread of disease in different bird populations; 
  • developing models to predict how the avian influenza virus may spread and; 
  • informing strategies to decrease disease risk and transmission to people.
Professor Munir Iqbal, head of Pirbright’s Avian Influenza Virus group, said:  “The expertise of Pirbright’s researchers will help to achieve the key aims of this consortium, and as an Institute, we are extremely proud to be part of this. 

“Avian influenza is an economically important virus that has devastating effects on the poultry industry, therefore improved understanding of the virus will give us more insight into how it spreads and inform our control strategies to prevent it from spreading to people and other animals.” 

Dr Guillaume Fournié, a senior research fellow at the RVC, said: “As part of this project, the RVC will contribute to improve our understanding of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus dynamics in wild bird populations, at the interface between wild birds and domestic poultry, and its potential to cause large outbreaks among farms. This information will allow us to inform the design of more targeted surveillance activities and risk mitigation interventions better tailored to the UK poultry sector.”

The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, added: "This new consortium will allow us to combine our expertise at a national level to increase the speed and quality of our research, ensuring we can develop new strategies to aid our efforts against this insidious disease and hopefully in time reduce the impact on the poultry sector."

The project has been made possible thanks to £1.5 million in funding from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Consortium members include the Animal and Plant Health Agency, The Pirbright Institute, Royal Veterinary College, Roslin Institute, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University of Leeds and University of Nottingham.

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on minsmere@rspb.org.uk outside of these times."  

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Moredun Foundation Award opens for applications

The 2022-2023 Moredun Foundation Award (MFA) is now open for members, with up to £2,000 available for successful applicants.

The MFA honours the contribution that education, teamwork, life experience, and travel have made to the understanding of cattle health and welfare. Through its charitable endeavours, Moredun offers its members the opportunity to pursue projects that support personal development.

The prize is open to a wide range of project applications, including those that include producing educational tools, conducting a small research project, or studying farming methods in other nations. For more information and to apply, visit moredun.org.uk