Guild members in Scotland were given a fascinating insight into the work of a new animal disease centre set up with £2.5 million funding from the Scottish Government.
The Epidemiological and Population Health and Infectious Disease Control Centre – more easily referred to simply as EPIC – is thought to be a world-first.
It draws on a range of experts from Scottish agricultural institutions – Glasgow University vet school, Edinburgh University’s Centre of Infectious Diseases, the Moredun Institute, Scottish Agricultural College, Aberdeen’s Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and the Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland Research Institution.
Guild chairman Joe Watson said meeting with the Epic team had been hugely worthwhile. Guild members Claire Powell and Rog Wood also attended along with staff members of The Scottish Farmer.
The new centre’s intensely technical work was last year key in unravelling the animal movement restrictions imposed in the wake of foot-and-mouth faster in Scotland than in England.
It is already undertaking emergency research to develop statistical models on the areas of potential greatest risk if the deadly midge-borne bluetongue virus spreads to Scotland, as expected, later this summer.
That work is also considering the likely economic impact of the virus, as well as the strategy the Scottish Government may need to put place to deal with the problem.
The centre is also developing ways of tackling animal diseases that affect humans. These include zoonosis that can cause abortions in pregnant women and the tick-born viruses that are now particularly relevant given the recent doubling in Lyme Disease cases in humans in Scotland.
The Macaulay is leading research on the latter and is in the process of identifying potential tick hot spots across Scotland, where ticks could have an impact on human, sheep and grouse health.
Epic members: (left to right) Professor George Gunn of the Scottish Agricultural College; director Professor Mark Woolhouse, of the Centre of Infectious Diseases at Edinburgh University, and Professor Stuart Reid, dean of the faculty of veterinary medicine at Glasgow Unversity.