Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 11.01.2006

Animal-borne diseases are spreading in the changing Europe

EDEN Annual Meeting held January 12 th - 14 th in the Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi

More than a hundred researchers from around Europe came together in Rovaniemi to participate in a conference where the objective was to predict the impact of environmental changes, climate change in particular, on the epidemiology of emerging animal-borne diseases in Europe.

Emerging Diseases in a Changing European Environment (EDEN) is a giant, five-year EU project under the Global Change programme. EDEN comprises 42 research groups from 24 countries. The Sixth European Frame Programme introduced this type of Integrated Projects as. new research instruments. Integrated projects are interdisciplinary operational entities consisting of several dozen research groups.

Examples of research targets include, for example, tick-borne diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis, diseases such as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, caused by rodent-borne viruses, the West Nile virus that has attracted great attention in recent years, malaria, and leishmaniasis, which is a parasitic disease. The dissemination and epidemiologies of all these diseases can drastically change in connection with an environmental change. In addition, new diseases can spread into Europe from adjacent areas, and to cope with this the project also includes an African section.

In each sub-project existing data is utilized and new data is being collated on both human and animal epidemiology. These data are then combined with climatic and environmental data gained through satellite imaging, and modelling is used to predict future alternatives. The objective of the EU Integrated Projects scheme is to combine the results of the sub-projects into one entity. Specific sub-projects exploiting mathematical and GIS (Geographical Information System) modelling enhance the organization of the total data pool.

The Finnish Forest Research Institute Metla and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland were the organisers of this first annual meeting of the EDEN-IP project. In addition to researchers from Europe, a few researchers from Africa and surveillance participants representing the EU, WHO, and FAO also took part in the conference. The results of the first year were presented in the first annual meeting and another important objective was to improve the integration status of the giant project by providing a forum for discussion.

Metla’s Heikki Henttonen, Professor of Forest Zoology and member of the EDEN project’s Steering Committee bore main organizational responsibility and served as chairman of the meeting.

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