The launch of a new report entitled, Building a European Community to Combat Zoonoses ends Med-Vet-Net's five years of existence under EC funding. The organization is arguably the EU's foremost Network of Excellence.
The report details Med-Vet-Net's long list of scientific achievements across the spectrum of its thematic disciplines from epidemiology and surveillance to risk research and disease control.
The Network, which concludes this month having ushered in a new era of scientific collaboration and preparedness across Europe, uniquely brought together more than 300 multi-disciplinary scientists from 10 countries to undertake research on the zoonoses and food-borne diseases that threaten public health.
Through previously inconceivable collaborations between medical and veterinary scientists, food science researchers, microbiologists, epidemiologists and risk analysts, Med-Vet-Net established a critical, interconnected mass of scientific experts who are now readily available to EU authorities in the event of an outbreak emergency, such as H1N1 ('swine flu') or E. Coli.
Med-Vet-Net Project Manager, Professor John Threlfall of the UK's Health Protection Agency, said the fruits of the Network's scientific collaborations could not be overstated.
"In the fight against disease it is critical that, as a European community, we can respond effectively, collectively and immediately," Professor Threlfall said.
"Through Med-Vet-Net's work we now have standard tests and tools, harmonised laboratory procedures and a common language across Europe to help us more quickly and accurately detect and control the most serious food-borne disease threats."
Med-Vet-Net's 25 multi-partner research projects yielded an unparalleled catalogue of results, many with significant and tangible benefits to the European Community, including:
- New tests for earlier and more accurate detection of Salmonella, Verotoxigenic Escherichia Coli (VTEC), Q-fever, pig trichinellosis and food-borne virus diseases
- A real-time surveillance network of food-borne infections in Europe (PulseNet Europe)
- An online atlas comprising a series of maps showing the spread and incidence of the 10 most important types of Salmonella in Europe ('Salmonella Atlas')
- A new serological test that measures antibodies in blood serum as an indicator of past infection, offering a more accurate picture of disease incidence
- The first ever food-based detections in Europe of particular genes associated with resistance to beta-lactam, aminoglycoside and flouroquinolone antibiotics
- Identification of infection rates in different countries of food-borne disease in humans
- New methods of assessing risks to consumers and the impact of control measures, and
- Identification of the burden of infection of food-borne disease — the costs and impact to the community.
Med-Vet-Net's most enduring legacy however, will be its own continuing existence.
The newly formed Med-Vet-Net Association, comprising all 14 of the Network's scientific partners, will build on the success of its predecessor, strengthening the existing partnerships and forging new collaborations both within Europe and around the world.
Dr Valérie Baduel of the French Food Safety Agency and President of the Med-Vet-Net Association, said the Network's success has ensured Europe is in the fittest possible state to tackle the scourge of zoonotic diseases, but the fight must continue.
"The new horizons are new diseases, which is why it is essential we maintain the momentum of Med-Vet-Net and continue to develop and remain a major focus for European activities targeting the prevention and control of zoonoses."