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04-12-2008 - Tackling brucellosis - 'one of the world's most important zoonotic diseases'

Tackling brucellosis - 'one of the world's most important zoonotic diseases'

Brucellosis is often quoted as one of the world's most important zoonotic diseases. Outside a few of the most developed countries, it remains a substantial economic and social problem, with significant impacts on human and animal health. To discuss some of the latest research into and understanding of this disease, the 4th International Brucellosis Research Conference, organised by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), was held at the Royal Holloway College, University of London, in September. Nicola Commander, John McGiven and Adrian Whatmore of the VLA report on the proceedings

DESPITE eradication of brucellosis in the UK some years ago, the occurrence of several subsequent importations, and the re-establishment of the disease in Northern Ireland, have highlighted the need to remain vigilant to its threat. The insidious nature and non-specific symptoms of the disease can mean its importance is understated compared to other diseases.

Reflecting the global significance of the disease, the recent meeting was co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EU's Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). Support was also provided by the VLA and DEFRA. The support of the CTA and contributions from other agencies were particularly valuable in supporting the attendance of significant numbers of delegates from Africa and the former Soviet Union countries, where the true extent of the brucellosis problem is only beginning to emerge. Over 300 delegates from approximately 60 countries attended, making this the largest brucellosis conference to date.

The meeting covered a broad remit, from applied aspects of eradication and control programmes through to the latest research dissecting the biology of Brucella, and thus attracted a diverse audience of veterinarians, clinicians, scientists and government and international regulators.

Proceedings opened with a historical perspective on brucellosis. Vivian Wyatt (University of Leeds) gave an interesting and humorous lecture on the history of the discovery of brucellosis and the spread of the disease on Malta. Mike Corbel (National Institute for Biological Standards and Control) then described the history of brucellosis research and eradication on the British mainland, outlining the initiation of a sustained eradication scheme in 1967, which eventually led to eradication in the early 1980s. He noted that this great achievement received little acclaim, even though it was delivered in a comparatively cost-effective manner. Finally in the opening session, Ottorino Cosivi of the WHO and David Ward, representing the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, set the scene for the rest of the meeting by describing the roles of their organisations in the control of brucellosis. There was particular emphasis on the need for intersectoral collaborative actions between national veterinary and human health authorities, the need to make brucellosis a funding priority and the need to tackle the disease on a regional basis

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