Background of the project
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
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
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
- The application of microarray technology for the detection of
known infectious agents in wildlife populations.
- The application of microarray technology to the detection and
identification of novel and unknown infectious agents in wildlife
- The application of microarray technology to the development of
high through-put serological screening of wildlife populations for
- The utilisation of these technologies to assess the spread of
selected diseases (proof of concept) using historical samples and
those collected during the grant. We will monitor and model patterns
of wildlife disease spread and the risks associated with these
changes. Ultimately this epidemiology framework will be used to
reduce the risk of further potential epidemics by producing a
generic action plan in case of emerging epizootics among wildlife.
- The development of a state of the art wildlife disease data
management system with mapping capability for use in Europe and
- The establishment of a framework for pan-European surveillance
of wildlife diseases.
The work programme is subdivided into the following key areas:
- Establishment of array-based technologies for multi-pathogen
screening of individual wildlife samples.
- Epidemiological analysis of historical and new field data to
assess current wildlife disease incidence, prevalence and geographic
distribution and to determine the potential risk for the emergence
of new diseases.
- Development of online resources for comprehensive and accessible
information on wildlife diseases.
- Establishment of a surveillance network for emerging diseases of
wildlife in Europe comprised of specialists in diagnostic
technology, bioinformatics and wildlife health, with links to
corresponding European and international networks.
This project is supported by the European Commission under the Food, Agriculture
and Fisheries, and Biotechnology Theme of the 7th Framework Programme for
Research and Technological Development, grant agreement no. 222633.
Role of Wildpro and Twycross Zoo in WildTech
Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society is one of 13 partners
involved in the four-year EU-funded (FP7) WildTech project, which aims to develop novel
technologies for the surveillance of emerging and re-emerging wildlife diseases.
The project is being led by the University of
Nottingham. Other partners are universities, government agencies and
biotechnology companies from across Europe, including the Veterinary
Laboratories Agency (VLA), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Clondiag, and
Twycross Zoo provides information on the health and management of captive and
free-ranging animals and emerging infectious diseases via the Wildpro electronic
encyclopaedia and library, and the Zoo's role in the WildTech project is to
collate historical published information on important pathogens and diseases
in European wildlife, particularly the priority pathogens
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (bovine TB), Bluetongue virus
(bluetongue), Francisella tularensis (Tularemia), European brown
hare syndrome virus and hantaviruses (haemorrhagic fever with renal
syndrome - HFRS), so that it can be
made available to wildlife professionals worldwide.