Linking Epidemiology and Laboratory Research on Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses in EU and China

2 September 2014 — LinkTADs Newsletter no. 1

Dear Colleague,
We are happy to present the first issue of the LinkTADs newsletter listing project achievements over the first ten months as well as updates in the field of animal health, food safety, epidemiology and veterinary research that might be of interest for experts in Europe and China.


Launched in November 2013, LinkTADs ( is a €1 million and three-year initiative funded by the European Union’s (EU’s) Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). It coordinates European and Chinese research on animal disease prevention and control. With five European and five Chinese partners (Table 1), LinkTADs engages major scientific players in the field of animal health, i.e. five European and five Chinese partners. FAO is the project’s Coordinator (Table 1).

China's exponential economic growth over the last decade, coupled with its rising population, and progressive urbanization, has led to a sharp increase in the demand and consumption of animal products. To meet such a growing demand of animal protein, livestock production has changed considerably (e.g. intensive farming), international trade of animals and animal products has grown dramatically, and agricultural areas have expanded at the expense of wild habitats. Today China is the world's largest livestock producer and consumer.

These economic, social and demographic shifts increase the potential for new pathogens to emerge, grow and spread on a global scale, sometimes affecting human health as well. The resulting diseases can spread over long distances and have an enormous impact on trade. Therefore, the effective prevention, control and eradication of these infectious transboundary animal diseases (TADs) is crucial for safeguarding and securing national and international food supplies, local livelihoods and human health.

nd human health.


The fight against animal diseases relies heavily on the research community developing new tools and strategies. These could be in the shape of new vaccines and diagnostics, or through the use of epidemiology to better understand disease spread and improve approaches to surveillance, prevention and control.

International collaboration between animal health researchers can speed up these advances by bringing together new ideas, technologies, funds and expertise to solve livestock health challenges, thus optimizing the use of research resources. However, there are also many barriers that challenge joint projects, including regulations, policies, politics and languages. Over the past decade, a number of initiatives have been developed to assist in the coordination and facilitation of research between EU and China.

  • coordinate research across borders;
  • aid in finding common research goals;
  • guide partners along the process;
  • create sustainable and simple mechanisms to preserve collaborations in the future. 

To contribute to today’s livestock health challenges, LinkTADs will coordinate the development and improvement of new epidemiology and laboratory tools by linking researchers in China and Europe. It will facilitate research collaboration between the two regions and ease barriers related to regulations, policies, politics and language.

A 36-month work plan has been designed based on eight closely interrelated work packages.

Focusing on epidemiology and laboratory diagnostics, the broad objectives of the initiative are:

(i) to identify priority areas for joint action; (ii) to link European and Chinese animal health research, training programmes and innovation projects; (iii) to ensure a wide-ranging network of scientific communities and stakeholders; (iv) to provide a long-term vision and achieve coordinated planning regarding future common research; (v) to contribute to the international policies related to EU animal health and trade; (vi) to support young researchers through exchange programmes and training; and (vii) to share the results and methodologies within and outside the consortium.

Organization name Country
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Italy
Europa Media Non-profit Ltd. (EM) Hungary
Royal Veterinary College (RVC) UK
Centre de Coopération Internationale enRecherché Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) France
National Veterinary Institute of Sweden (Staten Veterinäermedicinska Anstalt) (SVA) Sweden
Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute (SHVRI)
Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (HVRI) China
China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center (CAHEC) China
Beijing Chinese Center for Disease Controland Prevention (CADC) China
Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovaçao (SPI) Portugal
Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU) China

"Under the LinkTADs umbrella, scientists from the EU and China will benefit from each other's knowledge, skills, facilities and equipment. Most importantly, they will have access to a wider pool of funding programmes."

Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo,

Animal Health Officer (veterinary epidemiologist)
Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations




In order to prioritize the emerging animal health, food safety and food security issues in the EU and in China, two literature reviews of published information were carried out by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the EU and by the China Animal Disease Control Center in China. These findings were then discussed at separate meetings involving key local stakeholders and experts. Findings of the literature reviews and discussions were then presented and discussed at the LinkTADs Workshop in Shanghai, on 14-16 April 2014.

A survey was also carried out by RVC among animal health researchers to map the available resources and infrastructure in high priority areas, to identify specific gaps and synergies between the EU and China. While researchers in the EU mentioned limited access to funding as a potential barrier to research, those in China felt that lack of access to databases of animal health information may be a major constraint, along with a lack of personnel trained in epidemiological methods.

The key findings were:

  • Both the EU and China consider influenza, African swine fever (ASF), rabies and brucellosis to be high priority issues, and  antimicrobial resistance a significant concern.
  • Tuberculosis (TB), bluetongue (BT) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) are of high importance in the EU. TB and FMD are also priorities for China, but not as much as other diseases.
  • Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), Newcastle disease (ND), classical swine fever (CSF), porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) and pseudorabies are of high importance in China, but are lower priorities in the EU.
  • Although not emphasized in the literature review, peste des petits ruminants (PPR), Japanese encephalitis (JE) and African swine fever (ASF) are emerging issues of increasing concern for China.
  • In the EU, a large proportion of animal health research focuses on cattle, whereas the focus in China concerns pigs and poultry. Almost three quarters of the animal health research in China takes place in the laboratory, while in the EU there is a more even split between laboratory-based and field-based epidemiology research.
  • These findings indicate common priorities as well as potential gaps and opportunities for collaboration which will be explored further as part of ongoing LinkTADs activities.





The two main outcomes of the kick-off meeting were the following:

  • The 6-months work plan was discussed and officially validated by partners. This document was a key in guiding participants throughout the first six months of the project, highlighting the milestones, deliverables and main activities that needed to be conducted as well as the responsible institutions.
  • Partners agreed on the event calendar with locations and timing. It was decided to arrange back-to-back events to ensure maximized attendance at the meetings, while reducing travelling costs and time.

The first meeting of the LinkTADs consortium took place on 9-10 December, 2013 at FAO headquarters in Rome. A total of 27 participants from eleven institutions took part in the kick-off meeting. It was an opportunity for the partners to get to know one another and to clarify the work plan for the coming months.

Juan Lubroth (Chief Veterinary Officer, FAO) and Bart van Ommen (Technical Cooperation Department, FAO) welcomed the project participants and highlighted the importance of the global partnership for the control and prevention of TADs, and the exchange and cooperation between the EU and China. Then the attendees of the kick-off meeting introduced themselves, their organizations and their roles in LinkTADs. This was followed by an overview and discussions of each of the technical work packages following a common scheme: 1) Objectives of the WP and Tasks; 2) Deliverables; 3) Sensitive/complex issues; 4) Suggestions for the 6-months work plan; and 5) Comments and suggestions from partners (open discussion).

The coordination of epidemiology and laboratory activities was highlighted as a key issue, which can be partly achieved by organizing back-to-back meetings of WPs 3 and 4, resulting in mutual benefit. In addition, the composition of the advisory board was thoroughly discussed, and a list of potential institutions and individuals were identified. Also, the logo and the website design were agreed on.

The Meeting was finished with a short training organized by Europa Media on management and reporting for those partners who were less experienced in FP7-funded projects.




  • to exchange the knowledge and experiences on epidemiology, control and prevention strategies of TADs and zoonoses;
  • to prioritize the list of the diseases;
  • to discuss the activities for establishing a network on control of TADs and zoonoses.

The Workshop on TADs and Zoonoses was hosted by Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute in Shanghai on 14-16 April, 2014. The workshop was co-organised by LinkTADs and the project “Transmission Dynamics and Spillover of Avian Influenza under Changing Agriculture Intensification and Landscapes” funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health. The theme of the workshop was Bridging Research Activities on Transboundary Animal Disease (TADs) and Zoonoses between China and the EU.

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to the epidemiology and ecology of avian influenza. It was organised jointly with the kick-off meeting of a project on the transmission of avian influenza in Asia. This project is funded by the US National Institute for Health (NIH) and coordinated by Dr. Xiangming Xiao (Oklahoma University, overseas professor at Fudan University). It involves Chinese and European researchers working on LinkTADs and NIH projects. They presented the results of their research in their respective fields of expertise.

These presentations, linking the epidemiology and laboratory research on avian influenza viruses, fed the discussion of an expert opinion session. Results from this expert opinion session will be further analysed and delivered by the end of the first year of the LinkTADs project. Nevertheless, interesting suggestions and recommendations emerged during the workshop, in particular regarding our current knowledge gaps on avian influenza virus epidemiology and the way avian influenza outbreaks may be prevented, controlled and managed.

The participants extensively discussed the ways of establishing a network on control of TADs and zoonoses. The topics and potential participants for establishing the network were proposed.

Workshop 1 held on April 14th focused on epidemiology and ecology of avian influenza. Workshop 2 held on April 15th-16th concentrated on establishing the network for control of animal diseases and zoonoses. During the three-day workshop, 96 participants including scientists, experts and students from 35 institutions representing three continents, Asia, Europe and America, took part in the workshop discussions. With respect to the gender distribution, 37% of participants were female.

During the 2nd and 3rd day of the workshop 32 delegates presented their research findings, focusing on the following diseases:

  • TADs: avian influenza (AI), classical swine fever (CSF), African swine fever (ASF), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and Newcastle disease (ND).
  • Emerging and remerging diseases: porcine endemic diarrhea (PED), duck Tembusu virus infection and variant pseudorabies.
  • Zoonoses: rabies, Japanese encephalitis (JE), brucellosis and tuberculosis (TB).

A number of mechanisms, tools and guidelines and templates have been developed to facilitate the implementation and dissemination process:

  • Project Toolbox
  • Quality Assurance Plan
  • Gender Strategy
  • LinkTADs visual identity and website
  • LinkTADs dissemination and communication plan and dissemination materials (project brochure, flyer, poster) as well as LinkTADs social networking strategy.


COLLAB4SAFETY Worldwide Aims to contribute to an increased cooperation and coordination on food safety at a global level and consequently contribute to improving the quality of life, enhancing social welfare and boosting the economic competitiveness of the European food industry.
DRAGON-STAR EU-China Aims to support the Chinese participation in Horizon 2020, the reciprocity originating from the signed EU-China Scientific Cooperation Agreement, the bilateral cooperation in scientific, technological and industrial research and innovation fields, and the ongoing EU - China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue.
MARLON European Aims to create an inventory of epidemiological and monitoring initiatives, both within and outside the EU, which could provide useful data for the purpose of monitoring health impacts of animal feeds, in particular those containing GM ingredients, on livestock animals.
PACENET Worldwide PACE-Net Plus aims to further bi-regional science, technology and innovation (ST&I) cooperation between the South Pacific island nations and the European Union.
ESNIP 3 Worldwide Aims to increase knowledge of the epidemiology and evolution of SI virus (SIV) in European pigs, to inform on changes in disease trends and variation in contemporary viruses through organised field surveillance programmes.
EPIZONE Worldwide EPIZONE European Research Group (ERG) is the international network of veterinary research institutes working on epizootic animal diseases including those which may have zoonotic potential.
STAR-IDAZ Worldwide The overall aim of STAR-IDAZ is to improve coordination of research activities on the major infectious diseases of livestock and zoonoses in order to speed up the delivery of improved control methods.
ECRAN EU-China The Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN) is a three-year project funded by the European Union to provide advice on China to European policy-makers. It aims to establish a wide network of experts and institutions across Europe sharing a common interest in China.
BIO CIRCLE 2 Worldwide The project aims at increasing the participation of researchers from outside Europe in European research projects.
ASEMDIALOG EU-China-South-East Asia The objective of ASEMDialog is to identify areas of mutual interest for future collaboration between the EU, China and South-East Asia regarding animal health and food chain safety.
Foresight Infectious Diseases
China Project
EU-China The project devised a simple but novel methodology for identifying possible future trends in infectious diseases in animals and humans in China, which are of priority concern to the Chinese authorities.
EPISARS Worldwide This project aimed at preventing the re-emergence of SARS disease in human populations through the control of animal and human SARS-related coronavirus (CoV) infection.
CSFV_goDIVA Worldwide The CSFV_goDIVA project aimed at improving the tools and strategies for the prevention and control of CSF for domestic pigs and wild boar.
ASFORCE Worldwide The project aims to provide veterinarians, pig farmers and policy makers with practical answers and prevention tools against the disease.
PoRRSCon Worldwide Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is the major cause of reproductive and respiratory problems in pigs worldwide. With regard to animal welfare and agricultural economics, there is an urgent need to control PRRS.
RISKSUR Europe The RISKSUR project is aimed at developing decision support tools for the design of cost-effective risk-based surveillance systems that integrate the most recent advances in epidemiological methodologies.
Epi-SEQ Europe Epi-SEQ aims to exploit Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies to generate improved tools that can be used during epidemics of viral diseases threatening livestock industries in Europe.
LAB-ON-SITE Europe The project aimed at improving the diagnosis of nine major transboundary animal diseases (TADs) by addressing the recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW).
RAPIDIA-FIELD Europe The project RAPIDIA-FIELD will develop multiplex pen-side tests that can be used to support local decision-making by animal health practitioners.
ConFluTech Worldwide The project organized capacity building activities for the control of Avian Influenza through technology transfer and training.


ECVIM-CA Congress Mainz, Germany
4 - 6 September 2014
5th International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance (IMED 2014) Vienna, Austria
31 October - 3 November 2014
EuroTier Hanover, Germany
11 - 14 November 2014
European Scientific Conference on Applied Infectious Disease Epidemiology (ESCAIDE) Stockholm, Sweden
5-7 November, 2-14
5th Chinese Veterinary Conference & Veterinary Medicine Exhibition Qingdao, China
October 2014
EuFMD Open Session Cavtat, Croatia
29-31 October 2014
Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (SVEPM) conference Ghent, Belgium
25-27 March 2015


  • October 15th-16th LinkTADs first progress meeting
  • October 17th WP4 2nd workshop
  • November 17th LinkTADs policy event
LinkTADs Calendar
LinkTADs This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No: 613804