WildTech addresses the problem of the increasing prevalence of new and emerging diseases arising from wildlife which has clear implications for disease spread to domestic animals and humans both across Europe and globally. The reasons for this alarming trend are multi-factorial and have been well documented in the literature. In brief, the continued increase in the human population results in habitat fragmentation caused by factors such as deforestation and increasing levels of pollutants. These issues combined with global warming inevitably impact on host-pathogen relationships and the spread of pathogens into geographical areas previously unaffected. Alterations in land use and livestock rearing practices and the rapid global movement of humans, animals and other organisms are also key factors. Finally, the evolution of viral pathogens adds another factor into this alarming and complex equation.
WildTech is focussed on wildlife as a reservoir of disease. It is reported that 61% of known pathogens infect multiple animal species and 75% of all diseases which have emerged in the last two decades are of wildlife origin. It is therefore clear that the surveillance of disease in wildlife not only impacts on communities that rely on healthy domestic animals but is also an essential tool for the protection of human health. Despite this alarming situation, surveillance for infectious diseases in wildlife is far from satisfactory. Until now, there was no co-ordinated effort to monitor the spread of infection within and between different countries in the EU. Surveillance of wildlife infectious disease has been largely passive in structure rather than a proactive attempt to predict and manage future disease threats across Europe.
The WildTech project has been established specifically to address these problems and to set up a technology platform that may be exploited in Europe and elsewhere as a basis for high throughput disease diagnosis in wildlife.
The work programme is subdivided into the following key areas:
July 2009 - June 2013