Infectious disease control and prevention

New infectious diseases of both humans and animals are emerging at an increasing rate, with most new emerging human diseases being zoonotic (i.e. from animals) in nature. Their effective control requires a comprehensive approach commonly referred to as the 'One Health' approach. In keeping with this concept, the Infectious Diseases Research Centre (IDReC) at Massey represents a multidisciplinary team of scientists that covers the spectrum of infectious disease of both national and international importance from pathogen biology, through evolutionary biology, molecular epidemiology, public health, wildlife and conservation biology, statistics, bioinformatics and mathematical modelling.

nigel-french.jpg mEpiLab, led by Professor Nigel French, is an integral part of the IDReC research hub and specialises in the application of molecular and modelling tools to advance the understanding of the evolution, ecology and transmission of certain bacterial and protozoan pathogens of interest to New Zealand (e.g. Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, Leptospira, Streptococcus, Giardia and Cryptosporidium). The team works extensively with industry, CRIs, the health services and Government bodies.

mEpiLab’s research has led to the development of new surveillance and disease control tools that help address many complex and diverse issues related to some of the most important infectious diseases associated with food, food production and public health in New Zealand. Completed research has also informed national policy for the control of some of these diseases leading in particular to a dramatic decline in human campylobacteriosis in NZ (estimated to have saved the economy $42 million per annum). Another focus of the group involves identification of pathogens in native New Zealand fauna to inform wildlife conservation programmes.

The mEpiLab, together with its collaborator EpiCentre (another IDReC member), has recently been recognised by the World Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a Collaborating Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health for the provision of scientific expertise and excellence in their specific designated fields of competence. Professor French was recently awarded both the 2012 Massey University Research Medal and the College of Science research award for his outstanding research achievements in the areas of food safety, molecular epidemiology and veterinary public health.

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