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

5 October 2015 — LinkTADs Newsletter no. 3



In this third issue of the LinkTADs newsletter, I would like to highlight, not just the main achievements over the past six months, but also our expectations for the last year of the project and how we foresee the future of LinkTADs.

After two thirds of the project’s life, LinkTADs has achieved all the goals we originally set ourselves in terms of the organisation of meetings, webinars, exchanges, and other networking opportunities. These mostly focused in building the relationships between LinkTADs partners, most of whom did not know each other at the beginning of the project. We can now say that this has been a success (see figure 1).


linktads partner network

For the remainder of the project, we would like to expand the LinkTADs network of researchers and institutions to external partners in not only the EU and China, but also the rest of the world. This process has already started, mostly by inviting external experts to deliver talks at our meetings and workshops. This has resulted in collaborations at different levels, i.e. exchanges of information, follow-up visits, joint applications for projects, etc. (figure 2). Some of these have already materialised into on-going projects (see the Section on successful examples of LinkTADs collaborations). During its third year, LinkTADs will increase our efforts in expanding the network, mainly by opening the participation to our meetings to external partners.

There are a number of services that we offer free of charge to anyone who works in the field of animal health, who would like to start collaborating either with Chinese or EU institutions. If you would like to find out more about any activity or how your institution could benefit from LinkTADs services, please feel free to contact us at

Another means to assist EU and Chinese research organizations will be by the establishment of a network of focal points. The Focal Point Network established within the LinkTADs project is a unique network of experts as it focuses on EU-China cooperation in a specific scientific field.

According to the work plan in LinkTADs, the main idea behind the focal point concept is to establish a support network of researchers who already have experience in EU-China cooperation in order to draw on their experience and inspire their fellow scientists.

Towards this aim, the LinkTADs consortium has selected scientists who are active in EU-China cooperation in the animal health field by contacting external experts and partners appointing their representatives. The members of the Focal Point Network have extensive academic and networking experience and will contribute to the sustainability of LinkTADs beyond the duration of the project by realizing the network’s aim of creating a User Group / Support Network of researchers and end users who will support the activities implemented in the EU and China, and regularly exchange information and knowledge in order to strengthen coordination between the ongoing activities.

In this newsletter, you will find a series of short articles on (past and future) project events, exchanges, webinars, reports, and tools in the field of animal health in the EU and China. Highlights since our last newsletter include:

- Past events,including workshops on the epidemiology of TADs, EIDs, and novel vaccines; trainings on field epidemiology; our first dissemination event (in the EU); webinars on rabies prevention and control tools; and our first event to link with industry (pharmaceutical and breeding companies);

- Successful examples of LinkTADs collaborations, like the approval of a project on Japanese encephalitis (JE) and the development of a portable PCR for the detection of African and classical swine fever;

- LinkTADs exchange LinkTADs researchers publish popular blogs regularly; the blog posts are open for public comments too and based on the web site statistics they especially attract attention of international audience;

- LinkTADs resources Registered users (international researchers, scientists and experts) can directly exchange messages;

- Upcoming Events not to be missed, including the back to back workshops on new diagnostic technologies and veterinary laboratory systems, as well as the second dissemination event (in China).



linktads network map


wp3 workshop

As a part of the tasks of WP3 Animal Health Science (epidemiology), CAHEC organised a workshop on 9-10 April, 2015 in Qingdao, China. One of the primary objectives of this workshop was to propose collaborations between EU and Chinese partners on epidemiology and laboratory research, as well as to set up new research projects aimed to fill the main knowledge gaps on top emerging infectious (EIDs) and transboundary animal diseases (TADs). The 8 diseases selected were AI, bTB, CSF, ASF, AMR, PRRS, JE and PP, all of which were identified by LinkTADs partners as priorities for both the EU and China.

The two-day meeting was structured as a highly interactive workshop dedicated to developing the framework of research project proposals targeting these priority diseases. As a result of this workshop, seven concept notes (one per disease) and one project sheet were finalized. It is hoped that these will lead to the creation of new projects where both LinkTADs and external partners can collaborate beyond the life-span of LinkTADs while addressing major research gaps. Forty three participants, including scientists, experts, and researchers from research institutions and the industry, attended the workshop.


CAHEC and FAO designed the training-of-trainers (TOT) programme to develop the capacity of national trainers within the Chinese Field Epidemiology Training Programme for Veterinarians (CFETPV), and build cooperation between European and Chinese partners by intensively linking the LinkTADs with other projects. The field epidemiology training was an important step in achieving sustainability and localization of the development of veterinary epidemiology in China. Five epidemiologists from CIRAD, RVC, FLI, and BfR were invited as trainers for 10 trainees.

The training was divided into two parts – the first one held on 1-3 April 2015, with the second phase taking place on 8-10 July. Each section included several lectures and networking/discussion sessions on selected topics. The training aimed to a) improve Chinese trainers’ capacity for teaching veterinary epidemiology; b) develop training curricula and materials in Chinese which are adapted to the Chinese context; and c) enhance their technical competence on veterinary epidemiology. Training materials developed during both training sessions will soon be available on the LinkTADs website.

wp3 field epidemiology training


The LinkTADs WP4 3rd Workshop on Novel Vaccines against Priority Transboundary Animal Diseases was organized by HVRI and held in Harbin, China on 16-17 July, 2015. During the two-day workshop, 50 participants including scientists, experts and students from 11 institutions from China and Europe attended the workshop. Fourteen speakers, including three invited experts outside the LinkTADs consortium, presented their research progress and shared their views on future challenge son the vaccine development against the priority transboundary animal diseases identified by LinkTADs partners, including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), classical swine fever (CSF), African swine fever (ASF), pseudorabies, porcine viral diarrhea, Japanese encephalitis (JE), and Avian influenza (AI).

During the discussion session, the participants exchanged their ideas for the innovative vaccines and vaccination against priority transboundary animal diseases in the next decade, such as PRRS and ASF, which is expected to form a possible EU-China joint project proposal.

wp4 animal health science 3rd workshop


The first of two dissemination meetings took place on 2 September, 2015 in Montpellier, France. It was organized as a parallel session to the 9th Annual EPIZONE Meeting, which this year was combined with the 10th International Conference of ESVV. The meetings’ emphasis was on multidisciplinary approaches to animal disease prevention and control with a special focus on recent research advances. Being very much in line with LinkTADs areas of interest, the meetings brought together a very relevant audience for the purpose of dissemination.

The LinkTADs session started with a presentation of Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, the project coordinator from FAO, who introduced an overview of the project, its rationale, objectives, structure (i.e. work packages), and major achievements to date. This was followed with a presentation by Kai Zhang from SPI on the major

sources of research funding in China, as well as the process of registering and accessing the LinkTADs Online Cooperation Opportunities/Funding Database. Francois Roger then presented on cooperation activities in the field of veterinary epidemiology between CIRAD and China, giving a more complete overview of activities conducted under WP3, including a new project on Japanese encephalitis. Timothee Vergne from RVC illustrated the different teaching opportunities between the EU and China, elaborating on how the research priorities and gaps were identified while focusing on the China Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (C-FETPV) program. Finally, Frederik Widén from SVA described how a newly developed portable PCR assay may be used for the rapid detection and differentiation of African and classical swine fever viruses under field conditions. The five presentations can be downloaded here.

dissemination event


Rabies causes tens of thousands of human deaths every year, disproportionately affecting rural communities from economically disadvantaged areas of Africa and Asia. China has the second highest number of annually reported rabies cases in the world (over 2,000 deaths per year). To help disseminate knowledge on prevention and control, a series of webinars was recently organized.

The first webinar, focusing on Asia, took place on 30 June, 2015 and was attended by 57 participants, mostly from Asia (video HERE, presentation download HERE). Numerous international organizations participated in the webinar which analysed the disease from a One Health aspect. WHO’s presentation focused on the global elimination of rabies, while the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) presented on awareness efforts and the Rabies Blueprint guide. Also present were the OIE and FAO, who presented on international rabies regulations and the principles and practices for rabies control, respectively.

The second webinar, conducted in Chinese on 21 September, 2015 included four presentations by the main Chinese institutions dealing with rabies. The Military Veterinary Research Institute, which is also the OIE Reference Laboratory in China, began by explaining rabies diagnosis techniques in the country. The Chongqing Animal disease Control Center then followed, providing an example of effective rabies prevention and control. Afterwards, a representative from Huazhong Agricultural University gave an update on rabies vaccine development. The webinar finished with the FAO office in China introducing the concept, role, and activities of the rabies taskforce.

The webinar can be viewed HERE, and the presentations are available for download HERE.


The LinkTADs WP4 Industry Meeting organized by HVRI was held in Chengdu, Southeast China on 16 September, 2015. Five speakers gave presentations on the achievements of LinkTADs and the epidemiology, pathology, diagnostic assays used, and control of CSF, JEV, and ASFV. In total, 147 delegates from the Chinese pig industry participated in the meeting.

As part of LinkTADs activities, the WP4 industry meeting aims at:

1) sharing the advanced experiences and achievements of the project partners on the prevention and control of major swine diseases;

2) discussing with industrial stakeholders and identifying opportunities and gaps for the future collaborations.


Portable Classical and African Swine Fever PCR Developed by SVA and HRVI

Assays used in central laboratory settings usually involve complex and stationary equipment like laminar flow hoods, centrifuges, fully automated spin-column kits, as well as other high-tech equipment. However, field conditions require equipment that is mobile, battery operated, and easy to use. Furthermore, samples that are easy to access and process, like blood or serum, are much preferred. With these requirements in mind, a collaboration between SVA and HVRI to develop a portable real-time PCR assay to detect and differentiate African from classical swine fever using Tetracore T4 thermocycler.

For this assay a magnetic beads-based extraction of DNA/RNA from blood/serum using a MagMAX kit was chosen. For PCR, published primers, probes (Haines FJ et al., PLOS ONE, 2013) and Ag Path-IDTM One-Step

RT-PCR Kit were used. The assay was run on a battery connected T-Cor4 PCR instrument. Evaluation of the assay was done at HVRI, China using 56 samples of 4 types (whole blood, serum, homogenized tissue and sera). The assay was tested in parallel on gel-based and/or real-time RT-PCR and evaluated at HVRI China, CReSA, Spain, and NADDEC, Uganda using samples from TiHo, Germany, and others.

The portable PCR assay performed well, thus providing a useful tool for detection and differentiation of ASFV and CSFV in either the field or basic laboratories in the EU, Africa, and China. This project is an example of a successful LinkTADs collaboration between SVA Sweden, HVRI China, CReSA Spain, NADDEC, Uganda, and Tetracore Inc, USA. The study was supported by LinkTADs, the RAPIDIA-FIELD project, and the OIE twinning program.

New Research Project on Japanese encephalitis (JE)

A new research project entitled, “Eco-epidemiology and Risk Analysis of Genotype Shift of Japanese Encephalitis Virus in Pigs and Mosquitos”, is being implemented by LinkTADs partners SHVRI, CIRAD and SVA. The JEV project is funded as a mirror to the LinkTADs by the China-EU international Science and Technology (S&T) collaboration program, ministry of S&T, China. This vector-borne viral zoonosis is caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), and is most prevalent in China and Southeast Asia. Genotype III JEV was the most widely distributed JEV in China. However, genotype I JEV, which emerged in the 1970s, replaced genotype III as the dominant circulating virus in China starting in 2001.

The objectives of the project are (i) to explore the mechanisms of JEV genotype shift and identify the ecological and epidemiological factors associated with JEV genotype shift; (ii) to analyse the risk of JEV genotype shift on JEV control. The project includes (i) isolation of JEV from pigs and mosquitos in pig farms with different climate and identification of the genotype of JEV isolates; (ii) detection of seroprevalence of JEV genotype I and genotype III in pig farms located at different climatic zones; (iii) collection of data necessary for eco-epidemiological analysis, such as pig density, vaccination, mosquito species, geographical distribution, climate, paddy fields, etc.; (iv) analysis of the ecological and epidemiological factors (e.g. pig density, vaccination, mosquito species, geographical distribution, climate, paddy fields) associated with JEV genotype shift and distribution; and (v) analysis of the effect of JEV genotype shift on pig farms and the risk on JEV control.



Between 4-12 September 2015, two scientists from CIRAD (Julien Cappelle and Véronique Chevalier) visited SHVRI to participate in the kick-off meeting of the JEV project “Eco-epidemiology and Risk Analysis of Genotype Shift of Japanese Encephalitis Virus in Pigs and Mosquitoes” while also helping perform laboratory experiments. The purpose of the short-term visit was (i) to discuss the issues linked to the JEV project implementation; (ii) to participate in the sample collection from pig farms; (iii) to train young Chinese scientists and students in epidemiology; and (iv) to identify potential avenues for collaboration.

This short-term visit brought together partners of the consortium in order to discuss the strategic and operational issues linked to the JEV project implementation, while also allowing them to participate in sample collection from pig farms near Shanghai. Scientists and students from CIRAD and SHVRI exchanged their research progress and discussed the experimental plan of the JEV project during the one-week visit. This allowed for a better understanding of the research activities, interests, and advantages of each institute, and helped bridge the gap between microbiology and epidemiology through the use of presentations and training lectures. The implementation plans of the JEV project were extensively discussed and re-designed, ensuring for a good implementation of the project in 2016.


Policy: Agreed Areas in Animal Health, Food Safety, and Security

Results of a recent survey implemented as part of LinkTADs suggested that there could be a benefit in trying to harmonise the legislation in animal identification and animal movement within the EU and China, in order to improve both animal and human health, as well as opportunities for trade. However, results also suggested that other policy topics such as the surveillance for early detection of exotic threats and contingency planning in case of introduction of exotic threats need to be context-specific, and therefore, will not benefit from harmonisation. Considering the need for the EU and China to be compliant with OIE standards in international trade, these could be used as a potential basis for harmonisation.

Compared to the EU, China has a very different law and regulatory system for animal health policy creation. This is partially due to the unique combination of China’s large animal populations, complex political situations, and disproportionate development between provinces.

In addition, for historical and economic reasons, the development of a modern animal health policy in China is much more recent than in most EU countries. Therefore the Chinese government, from local to central levels, tends to develop its animal health policy according to the specificities of the Chinese context. They do have certain knowledge about policies from the EU and often consider these policies to be the “gold standard”, but they are very cautious not to translate the policies from other countries directly to the Chinese context should they may not apply well in these regions. As a consequence, animal health policy made by the central government is more generic as compared to that of the EU. The lack of details gives space to local policy makers to implement the policy according to the local context.

LinkTADs Database on Funding Opportunities

To promote the cooperation between European and Chinese researchers in TADs and provide access to research funding programmes in the EU and China, the LinkTADs project has collected and summarized relevant projects and funding information on our website.

Anyone interested in the field can find information in the database taking the following steps.

A. To start searching for opportunities on the LinkTADs website, you must first register as a member. If you are already a member, just log in.

B. Find in the information at Member Area/Cooperation Opportunities, as shown below.

linktads partner network

The database is divided into two parts: Opportunities and Find Funding.


a. Opportunities:

The section titled Opportunities contains the on-going projects relevant to EU-China cooperation or TADs. You may either check the full list of the projects or use key words to search for a project.



There is a short description of each project. For more information, you just press the name of the project, and then the page will navigate to the official website of the project.



b. Find Funding

The Funding Opportunities section includes aimed at increasing the researcher’s mobility (i.e. travelling) available for experts in the animal health and food safety field, with a particular focus on funding available for the research in China.

You may use the filter to easily get the programme you are interested in. Search by keywords of the programme name; grant type; activities funded, and eligible country.

find funding

For each programme, grant type, activities funded and a short description are presented. For example if you search with key word “NSFC”, you may get the following result:

find funding result

To access further information on a programme, you just need to select the name of the programme and the page will navigate to the official website.

To learn more about funding and other cooperation opportunities join us



Upcoming LinkTADs events

WP4 4th workshop

The control of infectious animal diseases, including those with zoonotic impact, requires a comprehensive setup of linked institutions and actions. This setup should be aimed on early disease detection, rapid data analysis, and immediate decision making on the actions required to control or eradicate diseases.

LinkTADs Calendar

The on-going development of molecular platforms has made it possible to rapidly detect the presence of animal pathogens in very early stages of the disease, even before the clinical signs are present. Moreover, the possibility of multiplexing has enabled the simultaneous detection of multiple pathogens. Establishment of the proper diagnosis is only one prerequisite for proper planning and response. It is of the utmost importance to also incorporate the results of the laboratory testing into the overall monitoring and response plan for control of the specific disease.

find funding result

Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture

The LinkTADs laboratory meetings on 12-13 October 2015 to be held in Vienna, Austria are aimed to summarize the up-to-date scientific achievements in the development of the molecular diagnostic platforms and discuss their application within disease surveillance. This will include not only the technical background of the methodologies, but also data collection, analysis, and decision making using the most modern bioinformatics, data management, and geo-visualization tools. Additional key topics of the meetings will include the coordination of research plans for ongoing projects between Europe and China in order to integrate them in the disease control plans.The agenda of the workshop can be downloaded HERE. If you are interested in attending, please contact

WP5 Workshop on Veterinary Laboratory Systems and Policy

The workshop, scheduled for 14 October, 2015 in Vienna, Austria aims to bring together both Chinese and EU institutions to describe and discuss the way veterinary laboratory systems are organized, and how policy is developed and implemented across different functional levels. Within the EU, the formulation of policy and legislation in animal health and the supervision of animal health surveillance and control programmes lie within the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE). They themselves rely on the EU Reference Laboratories, which are disease-specific, and aim to ensure high-quality, uniform testing in the EU and support Commission activities on risk management and risk assessment in the area of laboratory analysis. The head of one EU reference laboratory will explain the mandate, responsibilities, challenges in disease diagnostics, and networking. The last step in the chain implies the translation of EU policy and legislation at the national level. In a second session, the parallel structure in China will be explained in two steps: first, the structure, functions, and responsibilities of the national veterinary diagnostic laboratory will be described, followed by the experiences of the director of the Chinese national laboratory, covering the same aspects as the EU reference laboratory.



In addition, the FAO guidelines on veterinary laboratory policy, and the roles and responsibilities of an OIE and FAO Reference Laboratory will also be presented. The workshop will end with a general discussion session promoting shared learning and developing opportunities for the coordination of laboratory systems. The agenda of the workshop can be downloaded HERE. If you are interested in attending, please contact

LinkTADs 2nd Progress Meeting

On 15-16 October, during the second progress meeting, the LinkTADs team will evaluate the project’s progress over the first two years and set goals for the next six months. The progress meeting will take place in Vienna, Austria at the premises of FAO IAEA.

LinkTADs progress meeting is organized on a yearly basis as part of ensuring effective management and implementation of the project. The progress meeting is aimed at facilitating project monitoring through the assessment of the activity status in each work package, based on the presentations delivered by work package leaders. LinkTADs partners will come together to discuss administrative and financial aspects of the project, agree on future steps, approve future events, and decide on any corrective measures if necessary.

Dissemination Event in China

LinkTADs dissemination event in China will be aligned with the 6th Chinese Veterinary Congress on 7 November 2015. The Congress will be held in Fu Zhou, Fujian province, China. More than 10,000 participants are expected, with representatives from the government, animal husbandry sector, bio-product companies, pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, and universities.

The dissemination event will be jointly organized by FAO ECTAD China, SPI, and CADC. A specific venue will be set up for dissemination of the LinkTADs project. Experts from CADC, HZAU, HVRI and other project participants will deliver presentations during the congress. LinkTADs brochures and posters will be distributed to all participants.

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