A NATIONAL research centre, looking at how animal diseases can be passed to humans, has opened in Neston.
The UK’s only centre for zoonosis research is now based at the University of Liverpool site at Leahurst.
Zoonosis are diseases, such as bird flu, that originate in animals but can jump species and infect humans.
The new centre was opened on Wednesday by Lord David Owen, the University’s Chancellor, and Lord Lawson Soulsby, former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and honorary graduate of the University. It is located at the university’s veterinary campus because of the importance of understanding these diseases in animals as well as people.
The Zoonosis Centre is funded by the NorthWest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and is a collaboration involving the University of Lancaster, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA).
Professor Malcolm Bennett, veterinary pathologist and co-director of the centre, said: “Diseases such as SARS and avian flu are examples of new and emerging zoonotic diseases that hit the headlines, but around two thirds of all human infections are transmitted from animals, and some of these can be very serious.
“Rabies, for example, still kills more than 50,000 people every year, mainly in developing countries, while closer to home, most cases of food poisoning are also caused by zoonoses.”
Dr Chris Parry, medical microbiologist and co-director of the centre said: “Antibiotic resistance is a problem in many zoonotic bacteria, and this complicates the treatment of patients.
“The centre brings together scientists with different backgrounds in order to tackle not just theoretical issues but very practical problems in disease control and management.”
Dr George Baxter, NWDA director of science and innovation, said: “The NWDA is committed to developing and nurturing an internationally competitive knowledge base in the NorthWest, which is why we invested £1.68m into the centre through the NorthWest Science Fund.”