Medical Research Council (MRC)
The Medical Research Council (MRC) shares the results of its Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative. It funded three large interdisciplinary teams to carry out studies that explore key drivers of change in zoonotic diseases in three continents.
MRC-funded research is shedding light on how change in our natural, physical and social environments through globalisation, urbanisation, deforestation, changing food production and lifestyles may be inadvertently altering the patterns of disease spread.
In 2009, four UK research councils led by the MRC conceived and jointly supported the Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative – or ESEI.
By 2012, three large interdisciplinary teams from UrbanZoo, MonkeyBar, and Enigma were awarded funding for studies that explore key drivers of change in three zoonotic diseases in three continents. The studies range from mapping bacterial hotspots in Nairobi, looking at the transmission of campylobacteria in the UK, to understanding why a monkey malaria is now infecting humans in Southeast Asia.
Dr Morven Roberts, Programme Manager for Tropical Infections at the MRC, said: “Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. We see new or unusual patterns of disease occurring, often making the leap from an infection carried in animals. In the last five years alone, we’ve seen Ebola, Zika and MERS outbreaks, as well as a surge in antimicrobial resistance.
“The ESEI projects have taken on the challenge of identifying the key relationships between our natural and social environments that are altering the risk of disease.”
The ESEI research is innovative in several ways: the projects embraced collaboration, establishing interdisciplinary teams of researchers with expertise in public health, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, biology, geographical sciences and other specialties.
The teams also engaged with local communities in the affected areas where the research took place. This important step helped in understanding the history and context of the changes taking place and involved the community in creative approaches to capturing new information.
Dr Roberts said: “ESEI brought together truly interdisciplinary teams of scientists, conducting high-quality, state-of-the-art innovative research, addressing international research priorities. Their results have informed and shaped public policy and healthcare practice within the UK and on a global stage.”
This article was edited to reduce its length.