Tuesday, 2 October 2012

NSF, NIH Award Grants To Study Spread Of Diseases

September 29, 2012
The National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other US and UK agencies are joining forces to determine whether or not human-induced changes to the environment have played a role in the spread of West Nile virus, Lyme disease and other ailments.

The NSF, the NIH’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are among the organizations studying the possible ecological and biological mechanisms that could be at least partially responsible for the increased number of cases of infectious diseases spreading in both people and animals.

“Threats to human health, food security and ecosystem services are growing, in part due to increases in the spread of diseases,” Sam Scheiner, the NSF’s EEID program director, said in a statement Thursday. “These research projects will provide a new understanding of the causes of that spread and help us control these growing and myriad threats.”

“The interdisciplinary collaborations fostered by the EEID program promote a deeper understanding of how infectious diseases emerge and spread,” added Irene Eckstrand of the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “This knowledge is enormously helpful in developing effective strategies for suppressing the transmission of infectious agents in animal populations and reducing the burden of disease in humans.”

Twelve grants worth a combined $12.7 million have been awarded, and the projects that are being funded will allow scientists to investigate how habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution and other large-scale environmental factors might have contributed to the prevalence of disease-causing viruses, bacterium and parasites in both people and in various animal species, the NSF said in their September 27 statement.

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