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Final Report Summary - MED-VET-NET (Network for Prevention and Control of Zoonoses)

The overall aims of MED-VET-NET were to improve the understanding, prevention and control of zoonotic diseases in Europe through strategic and integrated high-quality collaborative research across the food chain, raise awareness of zoonotic diseases among policymakers, the general public and other stakeholders, and enhance the skills and knowledge base of European researchers in zoonotic diseases. Other objectives included progressing the concept of a 'virtual institute', thereby promoting the integration of veterinary and medical scientific activities within Europe in the field of food safety, and ensuring durable integration of the network through an overall sustainability plan by collaborating with other networks and exploring new funding opportunities.

MED-VET-NET was a Network of Excellence mainly operated by and for scientists who, in the course of the project, belonged to 15 independent public health and veterinary institutes in 10 European countries, supported by the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) and, in Year 5, by the newly appointed independent company, Science Communications Ltd (SC Ltd). SC Ltd emanated as a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) out of the network's communications unit. In Year 4, two of the veterinary institutes in the Netherlands merged: the Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre and the Central Institute for Animal Disease Control formed the Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen UR (CVI), so that in Year 5 MED-VET-NET comprised seven public health and seven veterinary institutes, and, through SfAM, the small-to-medium enterprise, SC Ltd.

During the five years of its existence, MED-VET-NET developed a series of fully integrated interactive groups of scientists. These included laboratory-based researchers, epidemiologists and risk assessors, coordinated by three overarching work packages (WPs) and with overall governance from a governing board comprised of the chief executives, all participating institutes or their nominated representatives, with input from a representative from the European Union.

All the above groups worked together towards a common objective of combating diseases in humans and animals throughout the EU. The main activities of the network were targeted at food-borne zoonotic diseases, although other non-food-related zoonoses, such as bat lyssaviruses, were investigated through Special Interest Groups operating outside the scientific WPs but with seed-corn funding provided by MED-VET-NET.

Twenty-eight WPs were in operation during the lifetime of MED-VET-NET, comprising the 3 overarching WPs and 25 scientific WPs grouped into four thematic areas: Epidemiology, Host-Microbe Interaction, Detection and Control, and Risk Research. In all, the network achieved 387 of 406 intended milestones (95.3 %) and 389 of 401 intended deliverables (97.0 %). Nine scientific work packages were completed in the first 18 months of the project; 1 in the first 21 months; 12 in the 42 months from April 2006 to August 2009; one in the 39-month period from July 2006 to August 2009; and one in the 12-month period from September to August 2009. One WP, WP6, was in existence throughout the project.

The subjects or themes of the WPs were wide-ranging in terms of the organisms and research areas. The organisms studied included bacteria, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC), Coxiella; parasites - Trichinella, Cryptosporidium, Giardia; and viruses - bat lyssavirus, Hepatitis E virus, Anellovirus, Encephalomyocarditis virus. The subject areas included antimicrobial resistance, virulence, the invasive process, quantitative risk assessment, prioritization of hazards in relation to food-borne infections, serodiagnosis, development and use of geographical information systems, polymerase chain standardization, and standardisation of methods for molecular subtyping (PulseNet Europe).

in terms of scientific outputs, of the 319 anticipated deliverables from the scientific work packages, 311 or 97.4% were achieved either in full or with minor modifications. Only eight (2.6 %) failed. Similarly, of 360 scientific milestones, 344 (95.6 %) were achieved and only 16 (4.4 %) failed. New methods for the diagnosis, enumeration and typing of bacteria, viruses and parasites were developed and ratified as a result of MED-VET-NETwork.

in excess of 168 papers were published or were in press in peer-reviewed journals at the time of writing, and several more had been submitted for publication. Eight authoritative reports were delivered and are available on the network's public website, and a further document was in press at the time of writing. Four guidelines or recommendations were published as well as three critical reviews of typing methods. A strategic document outlining methods for calculation of disease burden and cost-of-illness of food-borne zoonoses in the EU was adopted and publicly disseminated.

Seventeen standardised and harmonised procedures were developed for both laboratory-based and epidemiological procedures, and 23 databases or strain/DNA repositories/collections were established, most of which were publicly available or were to be made available at the time of writing. Four inner networks for the detection and control of specific organisms - TrichiNet, CryptNet, ZOOPNET and ZOOVIRNET - were formed and were in operation, with contributors from MED-VET-NET institutes and other institutes both within and outside the EU.

A molecular typing network developed in the first period of the project, PulseNet Europe, was in the process of being subsumed into the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and was in the process of becoming operational within the EU, with links to PulseNet USA and other PulseNet networks around the world.

A host of databases were developed and a software package for a European consensus model for Campylobacter risk assessment (CRAF) was developed and was being taken forward in a partnership between WP 24 and various American organisations at the time of writing. A new method of assessing Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in the community based on serum antibody levels was developed and was being progressed as a collaborative project that will extend beyond the EU-funded period of MED-VET-NET.

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