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Department of Zoology

 

Investigating the Role of the IP₃ Signalling Pathway in RNA Interference in C. elegans

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Fri, 31/07/2020 - 01:00
Investigating the Role of the IP₃ Signalling Pathway in RNA Interference in C. elegans Rees, Alice Both inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP₃) mediated signalling and RNA interference are widespread processes with fundamental roles in animal cell function. In the nematode C. elegans these two pathways have been shown to intersect such that IP₃ signalling mutants display an altered exogenous RNAi response. IP₃ is a key second messenger in the transduction of intracellular signals. Produced by the hydrolysis of membrane phospholipid PIP₂ by phospholipase C (PLC), IP₃ triggers Ca²⁺ release from internal stores by binding to the IP₃ receptor, a ligand gated calcium channel in the ER, thus triggering downstream calcium signalling pathways. It has been previously shown that loss of function in the IP₃ receptor (ITR-1) or in PLCβ (EGL-8) results in an enhanced response to exogenous dsRNA, with a more robust silencing response than that seen in WT worms. Conversely the potentiation of IP₃ signalling by the loss of function IPP-5, a phosphatase which catalyses the hydrolysis of IP₃, results in resistance to RNAi. In order to better understand the context of the IP₃ signalling events which are regulating the RNAi response I sought to identify the upstream activator of EGL-8 in this mechanism. EGL-8 is canonically activated by Gαq homologue ELG-30. However, by screening the RNAi responses of Gα signalling mutants using a range of assays, EGL-30 was ruled out as an activator of EGL-8 in the pathway regulating RNAi, since EGL-30 loss of function does not result in an enhanced RNAi response. The Gαo/i homologue, GOA-1, was identified as the most likely activator of EGL-8 due to the strongly enhanced RNAi response in goa-1 loss of function mutants in a number of assays. Other Gα subunits and known regulators of GOA-1 and EGL-30 signalling were also analysed. The RNAi response is a multistep process in which the exogenous RNAi pathway must compete with the closely related and interlinked endogenous small RNA pathways for resources. With the aim of better understanding how changes in IP₃ signalling might be influencing the RNAi response, small RNA sequencing was performed to look for evidence of change in the endogenous small RNA pathways of itr-1 mutants, and followed up with qPCR. However, no substantial changes to the endogenous small RNA pathways were found. Downstream of the production of primary siRNAs from exogenous dsRNA, separate argonautes mediate cytoplasmic and nuclear RNAi responses. I utilised an established assay to test for effects of IP₃ signalling on nuclear RNAi. The results suggest no specific alterations to the nuclear RNAi pathway in these mutants.

Virus discovery using current and novel methods

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Fri, 31/07/2020 - 01:00
Virus discovery using current and novel methods Mühlemann, Barbara Franziska Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology allows researchers to sequence genetic material from a wide range of sources, including patient and environmental samples, and ancient remains. The recovery of viruses from such datasets can provide insights into the diversity and evolution of both novel and already known viruses. This thesis focuses on two aspects of virus discovery in NGS datasets. In the first part of this thesis, I present ancient viral sequences from hepatitis B virus, human parvovirus B19, and variola virus. The sequences were recovered from NGS datasets from individuals living in Eurasia between ∼150 to ∼31,630 years ago, using standard sequence matching tools. The data show the past existence of viruses similar to variants circulating today. The sequences reveal a complexity of virus evolution that is not evident when considering modern sequences alone, including revised substitution rates and most recent common ancestor dates, as well as geographic movement and extinction of strains. The identification of viral sequences in NGS datasets relies heavily on sequence-based matching of unknown sequences to a database of known sequences. Comparisons are usually done at the nucleotide or amino acid level. However, those methods only work well on sequences closely related to those already present in the database. With the aim of identifying more diverged viral sequences, in the second part of this thesis, I present an algorithm to compare sequences based on predicted structural features, such as secondary structures and conserved amino acids. The algorithm is modelled after the music-matching algorithm ‘Shazam’. While initial results of the algorithm are somewhat encouraging, problems remain, in particular with the identification of adequate structural features. Identifying highly diverged viral sequences is thus still a challenging problem, hopefully to be solved in the future.

Beyond the pandemic: reduce the risk of animal viruses jumping to humans

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Thu, 30/07/2020 - 08:40
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THE PANDEMIC


What should we do?

#1 Reduce the risk of animal
viruses jumping to humans

The pandemic is forcing us to change direction, to rethink what we do
and how we do it. We ask our experts:
where should we go from here? Reduce the risk of animal viruses
jumping to humans

by Professor Bill Sutherland and Dr Silviu Petrovan

SARS-CoV-2 is not the first deadly virus to have jumped from an animal to humans, but it is the first to have swept the globe at such speed and scale. Cambridge zoologists Bill Sutherland and Silviu Petrovan warn that we must dramatically change the way we interact with animals to reduce the risk of this happening again.

The rate at which diseases that jump from animals to humans are emerging is increasing globally. Whereas in the past almost all of these ‘zoonotic’ outbreaks would have been local and short lived, it is easier for them to spread today.

Degradation of the natural environment, more livestock and wild animal farming and trading, urbanisation and associated high human density, increased travel and a globalised world all lead to greater opportunities for the spread of diseases. Fingers may have been pointed at pangolins and bats for COVID-19 but it is these human-caused changes that are driving the problem.  

“We need to improve policy and practice. The risk of another pandemic is all too real”Dr Silviu Petrovan

Just as generals are warned against planning to refight the last battle, we are concerned that suggested measures are often unrealistic (ban wet markets, stop hunting), ineffective (ban trade and risk an increase in illegal trade) or might make some problems worse (banning activities prevents any oversight and could disproportionately impact indigenous local communities that depend on wild meat for protein). This complex problem requires complex solutions.

Moreover, context-specific solutions need to be put in place everywhere. Despite most of these diseases originating in wild animals, many are transmitted to humans via intermediate hosts – and this can mean pets, captive wild animals (such as civets), livestock and feral animals.

We want to improve policy and practice. The risk of another pandemic is all too real. But evidence of what works to reduce this risk is not readily available. We’ve found that practitioners in various areas don’t tend to know about 40% of the possible options when they start making plans. When lives are at stake, that’s an alarming position to be in.

And so, since the pandemic started, under the umbrella of BioRISC (Biosecurity Research Initiative at St Catharine’s) in Cambridge, we brought together an international team of vets and wildlife experts in all categories of animal – wildlife, captive, feral and domestic – to look at all the major ways diseases with high potential for human-to-human transmission can spillover from animals to humans and then spread.

The results give policymakers and individuals a wide range of options, and are intended to encourage careful consideration of how things can be changed at the national or regional level.

Scanning for options

We use a method called Solution Scanning to look at all the evidence available and we ask experts to identify a range of options to address a problem.

The same method has been used in a previous study of ours to identify 275 ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus following lockdown. Sources of information include the scientific literature, position papers by non-governmental organisations, industry guidelines and experts in different fields.

This time, working with 23 other wildlife experts and veterinarians, we carried out a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics.

We estimate 60% of emerging human diseases are caused by pathogens that jump from animals, and we found seven potential routes by which another human pandemic could arise:

  • direct contact with wildlife, such as wildmeat hunting
  • commercial trade of wild animal products
  • breeding and trade of captive wildlife
  • breeding and trade of domestic animals
  • antimicrobial resistance – especially in relation to intensive farming and pollution
  • pathogen escape or release from laboratories, including bioterrorism
  • intentional creation of life

Each of these routes is complex.

We then focused on measures that can be put in place in society at local, regional and international scales to reduce the risk of another pandemic from each of these routes.

We didn’t consider the development of vaccines and other medical and veterinary medicine options – these are discussed elsewhere.

Where should we go from here?

We came up with 161 ways to reduce the risk of the next pandemic of zoonotic origin. That’s a lot.

But, for a particular situation, the list of potential solutions can quickly be narrowed down based on relevance and practicality – and the most important options will depend on the local and regional context. We haven’t prioritised, but nevertheless some clear front-runners can be identified:

Urgently introduce risk-assessed plans for wildlife markets: ban the trade of some species (e.g. bats) and introduce strict hygiene checks and species separation for live animals and fresh carcasses, including during transport.

Help various countries to improve biosecurity and reduce risks from livestock farming: provide PPE (such as gloves) and training for farm workers, control visitor and vehicle access, separate livestock from other animals with fencing, and protect food and water from contamination.

Regulate the maximum density of animals being housed or transported: cramped conditions for animals create poor hygiene, sickness and mortality, and increase the risk of contamination.

Enforce existing bans and regulate trade: identify animal species or products that are deemed to be high risk for pathogen transmission and work to remove and replace them or license their trade so that stricter hygiene and health checks can be implemented.

Minimise international transport of live livestock: introduce and enforce detailed animal health status checks and limit the movements of live animals across long distances.

Identify and protect areas with high biodiversity value but which are at risk from land use change: changes in habitat features from deforestation or mining can threaten or displace high-risk species. For example, protecting habitats such as bat roosts is important to reduce their displacement or high levels of stress and inadvertent contact with livestock and people.  

Integrate indigenous peoples and local communities into early warning systems of disease emergence: incentivise a switch to lower-risk hunting by promoting lower-risk species alternatives and engage local communities to implement surveillance of animal and human health.

Promote alternatives to animal products, especially for high-risk products: these might include synthetic or plant-based products instead of meat, leather, fur or traditional medicine products.

What’s next?

Our aim is to present the evidence and options, as experts working in different fields, so that policymakers have comprehensive information to help them make better informed decisions. They should certainly not assume the next pandemic will arise in the same way as COVID-19. In fact we need to be acting on a much wider scale to reduce the risk.

We still don’t know enough about certain risks and pathways, so increasing our understanding of pathogen hosts and potential transmission mechanisms between wildlife and livestock, captive-bred animals and humans remains particularly urgent.

Our study has shown that dealing with such a complicated mix of potential sources of infection requires widespread changes to the ways humans and animals interact. We can’t completely prevent further pandemics, but we know there are a range of options that can substantially reduce the risk. Can we improve how we live with animals? Most certainly yes. And we must.

We’re continuing to raise awareness of this work and exploring options for assisting policymakers with turning the list of options into policy.

A preprint of our paper ‘Post COVID-19: a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics’ is available here. We were pleased to see that the work was widely reported in the press not only in English but in other languages, especially Spanish and Portuguese, resulting in nearly 800 downloads of the report in Brazil from one website alone. The work was also discussed in a thought-provoking editorial in The Lancet.

Related topic: listen to Cambridge experts discussing ‘Preparing for Future Pandemics’

Professor James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine; Andres Floto, Professor of Respiratory Biology, Department of Medicine; and Professor Sylvia Richardson, Director, MRC Biostatistics Unit.

Professor Bill Sutherland is committed to improving the use of research in policy and practice. He holds the Miriam Rothschild Chair in Conservation Biology in the Department of Zoology and runs BioRISC (Biosecurity Research Initiative at St Catharine’s) funded by The David and Claudia Harding Foundation. To coordinate evidence assessment with global teams of experts, he developed Conservation Evidence, which also publishes the annual compendium of evidence What Works in Conservation. He is a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. 

Dr Silviu Petrovan is a qualified vet and a Research Associate at the Department of Zoology. He has been a Director of Conservation for one of the leading UK conservation NGOs, working on wildlife disease surveillance for amphibians and reptiles across the UK, and is also a member of the Conservation Evidence team and editor of What Works in Conservation.


Editor: Jacqueline Garget
Artwork: Balvir Friers
Series Editor: Louise Walsh

How you can support Cambridge’s COVID-19 research

TopBuilt with Shorthand Summary: 

SARS-CoV-2 is not the first deadly virus to have jumped from an animal to humans, but it is the first to have swept the globe at such speed and scale. Cambridge zoologists Bill Sutherland and Silviu Petrovan warn that we must dramatically change the way we interact with animals to reduce the risk of this happening again. First in a new series in which we ask the experts: beyond the pandemic, where should we go from here?

Image: Affiliation (schools and institutions): St Catharine's CollegeDepartment of ZoologyPeople (our academics and staff): Bill SutherlandSilviu PetrovanSubject (including Spotlight on ... where applicable): Beyond the pandemicCOVID-19pandemicCoronaviruszoonosesvirusinfectious diseaseBiodiversity conservationSection: ResearchNews type: News
Categories: Latest News (<front>)

Beyond the pandemic: reduce the risk of animal viruses jumping to humans

Research News - Thu, 30/07/2020 - 08:40
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THE PANDEMIC


What should we do?

#1 Reduce the risk of animal
viruses jumping to humans

The pandemic is forcing us to change direction, to rethink what we do
and how we do it. We ask our experts:
where should we go from here? Reduce the risk of animal viruses
jumping to humans

by Professor Bill Sutherland and Dr Silviu Petrovan

SARS-CoV-2 is not the first deadly virus to have jumped from an animal to humans, but it is the first to have swept the globe at such speed and scale. Cambridge zoologists Bill Sutherland and Silviu Petrovan warn that we must dramatically change the way we interact with animals to reduce the risk of this happening again.

The rate at which diseases that jump from animals to humans are emerging is increasing globally. Whereas in the past almost all of these ‘zoonotic’ outbreaks would have been local and short lived, it is easier for them to spread today.

Degradation of the natural environment, more livestock and wild animal farming and trading, urbanisation and associated high human density, increased travel and a globalised world all lead to greater opportunities for the spread of diseases. Fingers may have been pointed at pangolins and bats for COVID-19 but it is these human-caused changes that are driving the problem.  

“We need to improve policy and practice. The risk of another pandemic is all too real”Dr Silviu Petrovan

Just as generals are warned against planning to refight the last battle, we are concerned that suggested measures are often unrealistic (ban wet markets, stop hunting), ineffective (ban trade and risk an increase in illegal trade) or might make some problems worse (banning activities prevents any oversight and could disproportionately impact indigenous local communities that depend on wild meat for protein). This complex problem requires complex solutions.

Moreover, context-specific solutions need to be put in place everywhere. Despite most of these diseases originating in wild animals, many are transmitted to humans via intermediate hosts – and this can mean pets, captive wild animals (such as civets), livestock and feral animals.

We want to improve policy and practice. The risk of another pandemic is all too real. But evidence of what works to reduce this risk is not readily available. We’ve found that practitioners in various areas don’t tend to know about 40% of the possible options when they start making plans. When lives are at stake, that’s an alarming position to be in.

And so, since the pandemic started, under the umbrella of BioRISC (Biosecurity Research Initiative at St Catharine’s) in Cambridge, we brought together an international team of vets and wildlife experts in all categories of animal – wildlife, captive, feral and domestic – to look at all the major ways diseases with high potential for human-to-human transmission can spillover from animals to humans and then spread.

The results give policymakers and individuals a wide range of options, and are intended to encourage careful consideration of how things can be changed at the national or regional level.

Scanning for options

We use a method called Solution Scanning to look at all the evidence available and we ask experts to identify a range of options to address a problem.

The same method has been used in a previous study of ours to identify 275 ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus following lockdown. Sources of information include the scientific literature, position papers by non-governmental organisations, industry guidelines and experts in different fields.

This time, working with 23 other wildlife experts and veterinarians, we carried out a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics.

We estimate 60% of emerging human diseases are caused by pathogens that jump from animals, and we found seven potential routes by which another human pandemic could arise:

  • direct contact with wildlife, such as wildmeat hunting
  • commercial trade of wild animal products
  • breeding and trade of captive wildlife
  • breeding and trade of domestic animals
  • antimicrobial resistance – especially in relation to intensive farming and pollution
  • pathogen escape or release from laboratories, including bioterrorism
  • intentional creation of life

Each of these routes is complex.

We then focused on measures that can be put in place in society at local, regional and international scales to reduce the risk of another pandemic from each of these routes.

We didn’t consider the development of vaccines and other medical and veterinary medicine options – these are discussed elsewhere.

Where should we go from here?

We came up with 161 ways to reduce the risk of the next pandemic of zoonotic origin. That’s a lot.

But, for a particular situation, the list of potential solutions can quickly be narrowed down based on relevance and practicality – and the most important options will depend on the local and regional context. We haven’t prioritised, but nevertheless some clear front-runners can be identified:

Urgently introduce risk-assessed plans for wildlife markets: ban the trade of some species (e.g. bats) and introduce strict hygiene checks and species separation for live animals and fresh carcasses, including during transport.

Help various countries to improve biosecurity and reduce risks from livestock farming: provide PPE (such as gloves) and training for farm workers, control visitor and vehicle access, separate livestock from other animals with fencing, and protect food and water from contamination.

Regulate the maximum density of animals being housed or transported: cramped conditions for animals create poor hygiene, sickness and mortality, and increase the risk of contamination.

Enforce existing bans and regulate trade: identify animal species or products that are deemed to be high risk for pathogen transmission and work to remove and replace them or license their trade so that stricter hygiene and health checks can be implemented.

Minimise international transport of live livestock: introduce and enforce detailed animal health status checks and limit the movements of live animals across long distances.

Identify and protect areas with high biodiversity value but which are at risk from land use change: changes in habitat features from deforestation or mining can threaten or displace high-risk species. For example, protecting habitats such as bat roosts is important to reduce their displacement or high levels of stress and inadvertent contact with livestock and people.  

Integrate indigenous peoples and local communities into early warning systems of disease emergence: incentivise a switch to lower-risk hunting by promoting lower-risk species alternatives and engage local communities to implement surveillance of animal and human health.

Promote alternatives to animal products, especially for high-risk products: these might include synthetic or plant-based products instead of meat, leather, fur or traditional medicine products.

What’s next?

Our aim is to present the evidence and options, as experts working in different fields, so that policymakers have comprehensive information to help them make better informed decisions. They should certainly not assume the next pandemic will arise in the same way as COVID-19. In fact we need to be acting on a much wider scale to reduce the risk.

We still don’t know enough about certain risks and pathways, so increasing our understanding of pathogen hosts and potential transmission mechanisms between wildlife and livestock, captive-bred animals and humans remains particularly urgent.

Our study has shown that dealing with such a complicated mix of potential sources of infection requires widespread changes to the ways humans and animals interact. We can’t completely prevent further pandemics, but we know there are a range of options that can substantially reduce the risk. Can we improve how we live with animals? Most certainly yes. And we must.

We’re continuing to raise awareness of this work and exploring options for assisting policymakers with turning the list of options into policy.

A preprint of our paper ‘Post COVID-19: a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics’ is available here. We were pleased to see that the work was widely reported in the press not only in English but in other languages, especially Spanish and Portuguese, resulting in nearly 800 downloads of the report in Brazil from one website alone. The work was also discussed in a thought-provoking editorial in The Lancet.

Related topic: listen to Cambridge experts discussing ‘Preparing for Future Pandemics’

Professor James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine; Andres Floto, Professor of Respiratory Biology, Department of Medicine; and Professor Sylvia Richardson, Director, MRC Biostatistics Unit.

Professor Bill Sutherland is committed to improving the use of research in policy and practice. He holds the Miriam Rothschild Chair in Conservation Biology in the Department of Zoology and runs BioRISC (Biosecurity Research Initiative at St Catharine’s) funded by The David and Claudia Harding Foundation. To coordinate evidence assessment with global teams of experts, he developed Conservation Evidence, which also publishes the annual compendium of evidence What Works in Conservation. He is a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. 

Dr Silviu Petrovan is a qualified vet and a Research Associate at the Department of Zoology. He has been a Director of Conservation for one of the leading UK conservation NGOs, working on wildlife disease surveillance for amphibians and reptiles across the UK, and is also a member of the Conservation Evidence team and editor of What Works in Conservation.


Editor: Jacqueline Garget
Artwork: Balvir Friers
Series Editor: Louise Walsh

How you can support Cambridge’s COVID-19 research

TopBuilt with Shorthand Summary: 

SARS-CoV-2 is not the first deadly virus to have jumped from an animal to humans, but it is the first to have swept the globe at such speed and scale. Cambridge zoologists Bill Sutherland and Silviu Petrovan warn that we must dramatically change the way we interact with animals to reduce the risk of this happening again. First in a new series in which we ask the experts: beyond the pandemic, where should we go from here?

Image: Affiliation (schools and institutions): St Catharine's CollegeDepartment of ZoologyPeople (our academics and staff): Bill SutherlandSilviu PetrovanSubject (including Spotlight on ... where applicable): Beyond the pandemicCOVID-19pandemicCoronaviruszoonosesvirusinfectious diseaseBiodiversity conservationSection: ResearchNews type: News

Research data supporting "Order of meals at the counter and distance between options affect student cafeteria vegetarian sales"

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Wed, 29/07/2020 - 13:27
Research data supporting "Order of meals at the counter and distance between options affect student cafeteria vegetarian sales" Garnett, Emma; Marteau, Theresa; Sandbrook, Chris; Pilling, Mark; Balmford, Andrew This research data contains data from across 2017 and 2018 on vegetarian sales and model estimates from cafeterias at University of Cambridge colleges A and B. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of meal presentation order on vegetarian sales. We investigated this by changing meal order between “VegFirst” – positioning the vegetarian option first – and “MeatFirst”, in two studies involving 105,143 meal selections. The two studies reported here consisted of multiple treatment reversal design experiments, swapping the order each week (or month) in which customers were presented with vegetarian and meat main-meal options at lunch and dinner times. The experiments were conducted in two University of Cambridge (UK) college cafeterias; a college is similar to a hall of residence or dorm. College A is a graduate college with over 600 students. College B has over 900 students, both undergraduate and graduate. Both colleges admit students of any gender identity. Meals are not included in the tuition or accommodation fees: students can choose to eat in the college cafeteria, cook their own meals or eat at other establishments. Students pay for meals by swiping their university cards. The cafeterias are largely self-service: students take a tray, view the different meal options available, and ask the serving staff for their preferred meal and side dishes. Students serve themselves salads, desserts and other cold items. In College A, diners have to walk past all options to reach the cash register. However in College B, the entire cafeteria is square rather than rectangular (with an island in the middle with salad components) and diners do not need to walk past all the options to reach the cash registers on the left hand side of cafeteria. These studies were approved by the University of Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee (PRE.2016.100). Consent was obtained from catering managers; diners were not informed about the studies. The primary outcome variable was the number of vegetarian meals sold at each mealtime, expressed as a percentage of the total meal sales. Salads, sandwiches and side dishes were not included. College A provided four options at lunch and five at dinner; sometimes a second vegetarian or vegan option was provided but this did not count towards the sales of the focal vegetarian option (SI Table S1). College B had a third main option, placed towards the back of the cafeteria. In summer term 2017 this third option was always meat at lunch and dinner (SI Table S2), but starting in autumn term 2017 at lunchtimes a vegan option was provided (SI Table S3). Similarly, the vegan sales did not contribute to the vegetarian sales considered in our analysis (see SI Tables S10 and S11). Following the recommendation of Simmons et al,17 we discuss results from both univariate and multivariate models (Supplementary Methods). Sales data were downloaded from the online catering platform Uniware18. Many individuals buy more than one meal from their college cafeteria over a term. In the absence of individual-level data, each meal selection was treated as independent. While this approach has been used in numerous other studies6, it adds uncertainty to p-value estimates. We therefore focused primarily on the effect size of our intervention, presenting the odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals and McFadden’s pseudo R2. The odds ratio – i.e. the effect size – was calculated by taking the exponential of the model estimate. Model diagnostics were used to check that the models did not violate any regression assumptions. We carried out all analyses in R 3.519.

Post-doctoral Research Associate x 3 - Drosophila Connectomics Research Group (Fixed term)

Three Research Associate posts are available in the Drosophila Connectomics Group directed by Greg Jefferis and Matthias Landgraf in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

Positions are funded by a new £4.1M Wellcome international collaborative award with HHMI Janelia Research Campus in the US (FlyEM, Gerry Rubin, and Gwyneth Card), the MRC LMB in Cambridge (Greg Jefferis) and the University of Oxford Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (Scott Waddell). This project will produce the first synaptic-resolution connectome for a whole male adult Drosophila central nervous system, offering exciting opportunities for comparison with pre-existing female brain data. This resource will be rapidly shared with the more than 200 labs worldwide as well with computational and systems neuroscientists. This project follows a very successful 2016-20 project which focused on learning and memory, and innate olfactory/thermo-hygro-sensory circuits (see [1] for associated publications).

Applicants will work with electron-microscopy image data, annotate and proof-read automatically segmented reconstructions of neurons and their connectivity, develop opensource tools for data analysis and perform neuron and circuit analyses to obtain biological insight.

Candidates will join a Zoology team with 10 team members and will interact closely with a similar US team and experimental groups in Oxford (SW) and Cambridge (GJ). They will need to be highly motivated and develop a good understanding of the nature of the data and the scientific aims of the project. Close teamwork will be essential, but team members will have increasing opportunities for scientific independence as their expertise develops. [1] https://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/research/groups/connectomics/publications

Essential

  • Relevant PhD in neuroscience, computer science or physical sciences
  • Good understanding of neuroscience
  • Strong desire to understand circuit basis of brain function and behaviour
  • Experience with computer programming / scripting / data analysis (e.g. R, Python, Matlab, unix shell)
  • Experience sharing code and data post-publication, following standard open research practices
  • Proven ability to analyse and write scientific results
  • Good communication skills (written and oral).
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail

Desirable

  • Expertise in Drosophila neuroanatomy
  • Background in computational neuroanatomy
  • Proven ability to work with very large datasets
  • Ability to reason about computational bottlenecks
  • Proven ability to develop R or python packages or parse and write C++ code
  • Expertise in EM reconstruction software or EM of neural circuits
  • Experience mentoring junior scientists

Interview dates: Remote interview on 7th-25th September.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for two years with the possibility of extension until 30 Sep 2024 subject to project status and funding.

We welcome applications from individuals who wish to be considered for part-time working or other flexible working arrangements.

We particularly welcome applications from women and /or candidates from a BME background for this vacancy as they are currently under-represented at this level in our department/institution/Faculty/School/University.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please quote reference PF23545 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Categories: Current Vacancies

Post-doctoral Research Associate x 3 - Drosophila Connectomics Research Group (Fixed term)

Current Vacancies - Fri, 24/07/2020 - 00:00

Three Research Associate posts are available in the Drosophila Connectomics Group directed by Greg Jefferis and Matthias Landgraf in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

Positions are funded by a new £4.1M Wellcome international collaborative award with HHMI Janelia Research Campus in the US (FlyEM, Gerry Rubin, and Gwyneth Card), the MRC LMB in Cambridge (Greg Jefferis) and the University of Oxford Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (Scott Waddell). This project will produce the first synaptic-resolution connectome for a whole male adult Drosophila central nervous system, offering exciting opportunities for comparison with pre-existing female brain data. This resource will be rapidly shared with the more than 200 labs worldwide as well with computational and systems neuroscientists. This project follows a very successful 2016-20 project which focused on learning and memory, and innate olfactory/thermo-hygro-sensory circuits (see [1] for associated publications).

Applicants will work with electron-microscopy image data, annotate and proof-read automatically segmented reconstructions of neurons and their connectivity, develop opensource tools for data analysis and perform neuron and circuit analyses to obtain biological insight.

Candidates will join a Zoology team with 10 team members and will interact closely with a similar US team and experimental groups in Oxford (SW) and Cambridge (GJ). They will need to be highly motivated and develop a good understanding of the nature of the data and the scientific aims of the project. Close teamwork will be essential, but team members will have increasing opportunities for scientific independence as their expertise develops. [1] https://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/research/groups/connectomics/publications

Essential

  • Relevant PhD in neuroscience, computer science or physical sciences
  • Good understanding of neuroscience
  • Strong desire to understand circuit basis of brain function and behaviour
  • Experience with computer programming / scripting / data analysis (e.g. R, Python, Matlab, unix shell)
  • Experience sharing code and data post-publication, following standard open research practices
  • Proven ability to analyse and write scientific results
  • Good communication skills (written and oral).
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail

Desirable

  • Expertise in Drosophila neuroanatomy
  • Background in computational neuroanatomy
  • Proven ability to work with very large datasets
  • Ability to reason about computational bottlenecks
  • Proven ability to develop R or python packages or parse and write C++ code
  • Expertise in EM reconstruction software or EM of neural circuits
  • Experience mentoring junior scientists

Interview dates: Remote interview on 7th-25th September.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for two years with the possibility of extension until 30 Sep 2024 subject to project status and funding.

We welcome applications from individuals who wish to be considered for part-time working or other flexible working arrangements.

We particularly welcome applications from women and /or candidates from a BME background for this vacancy as they are currently under-represented at this level in our department/institution/Faculty/School/University.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please quote reference PF23545 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Research Assistant x 2 - Drosophila Connectomics Research Group (Fixed Term)

Two Research Assistant posts are available in the Drosophila Connectomics Group directed by Greg Jefferis and Matthias Landgraf in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. Positions are funded by a new £4.1M Wellcome international collaborative award with HHMI Janelia Research Campus in the US (FlyEM, Gerry Rubin, and Gwyneth Card), the MRC LMB in Cambridge (Greg Jefferis) and the University of Oxford Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (Scott Waddell). This project will produce the first synaptic-resolution connectome for a whole male adult Drosophila central nervous system, offering exciting opportunities for comparison with pre-existing female brain data. This resource will be rapidly shared with the more than 200 labs worldwide as well with computational and systems neuroscientists. This project follows a very successful 2016-20 project which focused on learning and memory, and innate olfactory/thermo-hygro-sensory circuits (see [1] for associated publications).

Applicants will work with electron-microscopy image data, annotate and proof-read automatically segmented reconstructions of neurons and their connectivity, develop opensource tools for data analysis and perform neuron and circuit analyses to obtain biological insight.

Candidates will join a team in Zoology with 10 team members and will interact closely with a similar team in the US and experimental groups in Oxford (SW) and Cambridge (GJ). They will need to be highly motivated and develop a good understanding of the nature of the data and the scientific aims of the project. Close teamwork will be essential, but team members will have increasing opportunities for scientific independence as their expertise develops.

[1] https://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/research/groups/connectomics/publications

Essential

  • Relevant Masters or 2 or more years of practical experience in neuroscience, computer science, physical sciences
  • Basic understanding of neuroscience
  • Strong desire to understand circuit basis of brain function and behaviour;
  • Some experience with computer programming/scripting/data analysis (e.g. R, Python, Matlab, unix shell)
  • Experience in analysing and writing scientific results
  • Good communication skills (written and oral)
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail

Desirable

  • Expertise in Drosophila neuroanatomy
  • Background in computational neuroanatomy
  • Proven ability to work with very large datasets
  • Ability to reason about computational bottlenecks
  • Proven ability to develop R or python packages or parse and write C++ code
  • Experience sharing code and data post-publication, following standard open research practices
  • Expertise in EM reconstruction software or EM of neural circuits

Interview dates: Remote interview on 7th-25th September.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years with the possibility of extension until 30 Sep 2024 subject to project status and funding.

We welcome applications from individuals who wish to be considered for part-time working or other flexible working arrangements.

We particularly welcome applications from women and /or candidates from a BME background for this vacancy as they are currently under-represented at this level in our department/institution/Faculty/School/University.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please quote reference PF23541 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Categories: Current Vacancies

Research Assistant x 2 - Drosophila Connectomics Research Group (Fixed Term)

Current Vacancies - Fri, 24/07/2020 - 00:00

Two Research Assistant posts are available in the Drosophila Connectomics Group directed by Greg Jefferis and Matthias Landgraf in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. Positions are funded by a new £4.1M Wellcome international collaborative award with HHMI Janelia Research Campus in the US (FlyEM, Gerry Rubin, and Gwyneth Card), the MRC LMB in Cambridge (Greg Jefferis) and the University of Oxford Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (Scott Waddell). This project will produce the first synaptic-resolution connectome for a whole male adult Drosophila central nervous system, offering exciting opportunities for comparison with pre-existing female brain data. This resource will be rapidly shared with the more than 200 labs worldwide as well with computational and systems neuroscientists. This project follows a very successful 2016-20 project which focused on learning and memory, and innate olfactory/thermo-hygro-sensory circuits (see [1] for associated publications).

Applicants will work with electron-microscopy image data, annotate and proof-read automatically segmented reconstructions of neurons and their connectivity, develop opensource tools for data analysis and perform neuron and circuit analyses to obtain biological insight.

Candidates will join a team in Zoology with 10 team members and will interact closely with a similar team in the US and experimental groups in Oxford (SW) and Cambridge (GJ). They will need to be highly motivated and develop a good understanding of the nature of the data and the scientific aims of the project. Close teamwork will be essential, but team members will have increasing opportunities for scientific independence as their expertise develops.

[1] https://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/research/groups/connectomics/publications

Essential

  • Relevant Masters or 2 or more years of practical experience in neuroscience, computer science, physical sciences
  • Basic understanding of neuroscience
  • Strong desire to understand circuit basis of brain function and behaviour;
  • Some experience with computer programming/scripting/data analysis (e.g. R, Python, Matlab, unix shell)
  • Experience in analysing and writing scientific results
  • Good communication skills (written and oral)
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail

Desirable

  • Expertise in Drosophila neuroanatomy
  • Background in computational neuroanatomy
  • Proven ability to work with very large datasets
  • Ability to reason about computational bottlenecks
  • Proven ability to develop R or python packages or parse and write C++ code
  • Experience sharing code and data post-publication, following standard open research practices
  • Expertise in EM reconstruction software or EM of neural circuits

Interview dates: Remote interview on 7th-25th September.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years with the possibility of extension until 30 Sep 2024 subject to project status and funding.

We welcome applications from individuals who wish to be considered for part-time working or other flexible working arrangements.

We particularly welcome applications from women and /or candidates from a BME background for this vacancy as they are currently under-represented at this level in our department/institution/Faculty/School/University.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please quote reference PF23541 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Vikings had smallpox and may have helped spread the world’s deadliest virus

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Thu, 23/07/2020 - 19:30

Smallpox spread from person to person via infectious droplets, killed around a third of sufferers and left another third permanently scarred or blind. Around 300 million people died from it in the 20th century alone before it was officially eradicated in 1980 through a global vaccination effort – the first human disease to be wiped out. 

Now an international team of scientists have sequenced the genomes of newly discovered strains of the killer virus after it was extracted from the teeth of Viking skeletons from sites across northern Europe. The findings are published today in the journal Science.

“We already knew Vikings were moving around Europe and beyond, and we now know they had smallpox. Just as people travelling around the world today quickly spread COVID-19, it is likely Vikings spread smallpox. Only back then, they travelled by ship rather than plane,” said Professor Eske Willerslev in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and St. John’s College, and Director of The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study. 

The team found smallpox - caused by the variola virus - in 11 Viking-era burial sites in Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the UK. They also found it in multiple human remains from Öland, an island off the east coast of Sweden with a long history of trade. 

They were able to reconstruct near-complete variola virus genomes for four of the samples. The genetic structure of this earliest-known smallpox strain is different to the modern smallpox virus eradicated in the 20th century.

“There are multiple ways viruses may diverge and mutate into milder or more dangerous strains. This is a significant insight into the steps the variola virus took in the course of its evolution,” said Dr Barbara Mühlemann, formerly at the Centre for Pathogen Evolution at the University of Cambridge, now based at the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and one of the first authors of the report.

Historians believe smallpox may have existed since 10,000 BC but until now there was no scientific proof that the virus was present before the 17th century. It is not known how it first infected humans but, like COVID-19, it is believed to be a zoonotic disease - one that originated in an animal. 

Smallpox was eradicated throughout most of Europe and the United States by the beginning of the 20th century but remained endemic throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. The World Health Organisation launched an eradication programme in 1967 that included contact tracing and mass communication campaigns - all public health techniques that countries have been using to control today’s coronavirus pandemic. But it was the global roll-out of a vaccine that ultimately enabled scientists to stop smallpox in its tracks.  

While it is not clear whether these ancient strains of smallpox were fatal, the Vikings must have died with smallpox in their bloodstream for the scientists to detect it up to 1400 years later. It is also highly probable there were epidemics earlier than these findings.

“While written accounts of disease are often ambiguous, our findings push the date of the confirmed existence of smallpox back by a thousand years,” said Dr Terry Jones at the Centre for Pathogen Evolution at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and one of the senior authors who led the study.

He added: “To find smallpox so genetically different in Vikings is truly remarkable. No one expected that these smallpox strains existed. It has long been believed that smallpox was in Western and Southern Europe regularly by 600 AD, around the beginning of our samples. We have proved that smallpox was also widespread in Northern Europe. Returning crusaders or other later events have been thought to have first brought smallpox to Europe, but such theories cannot be correct.” 

“Smallpox was eradicated, but another strain could spill over from the animal reservoir tomorrow. What we know in 2020 about viruses and pathogens that affect humans today is just a small snapshot of what has plagued humans historically,” said Willerslev. 

This research is part of a long-term project sequencing 5000 ancient human genomes and their associated pathogens. It was made possible thanks to a scientific collaboration between The Lundbeck Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, The Nordic Foundation, and Illumina Inc. 

Reference

Muhlemann, B. et al. 'Diverse variola virus (smallpox) strains were widespread in northern Europe in the Viking Age. Science, July 2020. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw8977

Adapted from a press release by St John’s College, Cambridge.

Scientists have discovered extinct strains of smallpox in the teeth of Viking skeletons – proving for the first time that the killer disease plagued humanity for at least 1400 years. 

Just as people travelling around the world today quickly spread COVID-19, it is likely Vikings spread smallpox. Only back then, they travelled by ship rather than plane.Eske WillerslevThames Valley Archaeological ServicesMassacred 10th century Vikings found in a mass grave at St John’s College, Oxford


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Latest News (<front>)

Vikings had smallpox and may have helped spread the world’s deadliest virus

Research News - Thu, 23/07/2020 - 19:30

Smallpox spread from person to person via infectious droplets, killed around a third of sufferers and left another third permanently scarred or blind. Around 300 million people died from it in the 20th century alone before it was officially eradicated in 1980 through a global vaccination effort – the first human disease to be wiped out. 

Now an international team of scientists have sequenced the genomes of newly discovered strains of the killer virus after it was extracted from the teeth of Viking skeletons from sites across northern Europe. The findings are published today in the journal Science.

“We already knew Vikings were moving around Europe and beyond, and we now know they had smallpox. Just as people travelling around the world today quickly spread COVID-19, it is likely Vikings spread smallpox. Only back then, they travelled by ship rather than plane,” said Professor Eske Willerslev in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and St. John’s College, and Director of The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study. 

The team found smallpox - caused by the variola virus - in 11 Viking-era burial sites in Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the UK. They also found it in multiple human remains from Öland, an island off the east coast of Sweden with a long history of trade. 

They were able to reconstruct near-complete variola virus genomes for four of the samples. The genetic structure of this earliest-known smallpox strain is different to the modern smallpox virus eradicated in the 20th century.

“There are multiple ways viruses may diverge and mutate into milder or more dangerous strains. This is a significant insight into the steps the variola virus took in the course of its evolution,” said Dr Barbara Mühlemann, formerly at the Centre for Pathogen Evolution at the University of Cambridge, now based at the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and one of the first authors of the report.

Historians believe smallpox may have existed since 10,000 BC but until now there was no scientific proof that the virus was present before the 17th century. It is not known how it first infected humans but, like COVID-19, it is believed to be a zoonotic disease - one that originated in an animal. 

Smallpox was eradicated throughout most of Europe and the United States by the beginning of the 20th century but remained endemic throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. The World Health Organisation launched an eradication programme in 1967 that included contact tracing and mass communication campaigns - all public health techniques that countries have been using to control today’s coronavirus pandemic. But it was the global roll-out of a vaccine that ultimately enabled scientists to stop smallpox in its tracks.  

While it is not clear whether these ancient strains of smallpox were fatal, the Vikings must have died with smallpox in their bloodstream for the scientists to detect it up to 1400 years later. It is also highly probable there were epidemics earlier than these findings.

“While written accounts of disease are often ambiguous, our findings push the date of the confirmed existence of smallpox back by a thousand years,” said Dr Terry Jones at the Centre for Pathogen Evolution at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and one of the senior authors who led the study.

He added: “To find smallpox so genetically different in Vikings is truly remarkable. No one expected that these smallpox strains existed. It has long been believed that smallpox was in Western and Southern Europe regularly by 600 AD, around the beginning of our samples. We have proved that smallpox was also widespread in Northern Europe. Returning crusaders or other later events have been thought to have first brought smallpox to Europe, but such theories cannot be correct.” 

“Smallpox was eradicated, but another strain could spill over from the animal reservoir tomorrow. What we know in 2020 about viruses and pathogens that affect humans today is just a small snapshot of what has plagued humans historically,” said Willerslev. 

This research is part of a long-term project sequencing 5000 ancient human genomes and their associated pathogens. It was made possible thanks to a scientific collaboration between The Lundbeck Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, The Nordic Foundation, and Illumina Inc. 

Reference

Muhlemann, B. et al. 'Diverse variola virus (smallpox) strains were widespread in northern Europe in the Viking Age. Science, July 2020. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw8977

Adapted from a press release by St John’s College, Cambridge.

Scientists have discovered extinct strains of smallpox in the teeth of Viking skeletons – proving for the first time that the killer disease plagued humanity for at least 1400 years. 

Just as people travelling around the world today quickly spread COVID-19, it is likely Vikings spread smallpox. Only back then, they travelled by ship rather than plane.Eske WillerslevThames Valley Archaeological ServicesMassacred 10th century Vikings found in a mass grave at St John’s College, Oxford


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes

Scientists supercharge shellfish to tackle vitamin deficiency in humans

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Mon, 20/07/2020 - 08:00

Over two billion people worldwide are nutrient deficient, leading to a wide range of serious health problems. Fortifying food with micronutrients is already an industry standard for enhancing public health but now scientists at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology have teamed up with Cambridge-based company BioBullets to supercharge one of the world’s most healthy and sustainable sources of animal protein: bivalve shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels.

Dr David Aldridge and PhD student David Willer have produced the world’s first microcapsule specially designed to deliver nutrients to bivalves which are beneficial to human health. These “Vitamin Bullets” – manufactured under patent by Aldridge’s company, BioBullets – are tailored for optimal size, shape, buoyancy and to appeal to shellfish.

This breakthrough, described in a study published today in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, is particularly valuable because when we eat bivalves, we consume the entire organism including its gut, meaning that we digest the nutrients which the animals consumed towards the end of their lives. This makes bivalve shellfish the ideal target for nutritional fortification.

In their Cambridge laboratory, the scientists trialled Vitamin A and D fortified microcapsules on over 100 oysters to identify the optimal dose. They also established that this should be fed for 8 hours towards the end of “depuration”, the period in which bivalves are held in cleansing tanks after being harvested.

The team found that fortified oysters delivered around 100 times more Vitamin A, and over 150 times more Vitamin D, than natural oysters. Even more importantly, they dramatically outperformed salmon, one of the best natural sources of these vitamins. The fortified oysters provided more than 26 times more Vitamin A and over four times more Vitamin D than salmon. The scientists found that a serving of just two of their supercharged shellfish provided enough Vitamin A and D to meet human Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDAs). 

Vitamin A and D deficiencies pose a particularly serious public health challenge – in Ghana more than 76% of children are Vitamin A deficient, causing widespread mortality and blindness. In India, 85% of the population is Vitamin D deficient, which causes cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and rickets. Even in the US, over 40% of people are Vitamin D deficient.

David Willer said: “We have demonstrated a cheap and effective way to get micronutrients into a sustainable and delicious source of protein. Targeted use of this technology in regions worst affected by nutrient deficiencies, using carefully selected bivalve species and micronutrients, could help improve the health of millions, while also reducing the harm that meat production is doing to the environment”.

David Aldridge said: “We are very excited about BioBullets’ potential. We are now establishing links with some of the world’s biggest seafood manufacturers to drive a step change in the sustainability and nutritional value of the seafood that we consume.”

Bivalves have a higher protein content than beef, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and have some of the highest levels of key minerals of all animal foods. Nevertheless, the nutrients that they deliver naturally is unlikely to solve global deficiencies. These shellfish are also highly sustainable to farm, having a far lower environmental footprint than animal meat or fish, and lower even than many plant crops such as wheat, soya, and rice. 

Bivalves are a highly affordable food source when produced at large scale and the global market is rapidly expanding. Production in China alone has grown 1000-fold since 1980 and there is great potential to sustainably expand bivalve aquaculture worldwide, with over 1,500,000 km2 available for sustainable low-cost industry development, particularly around the west coast of Africa and India.

The researchers point out that consumers in poorer regions where vitamin deficiencies are most prevalent are more likely to buy slightly more expensive fortified food than to make additional purchases to take supplement pills. They calculate that fortification adds just $0.0056 to the cost of producing a single oyster.

David Willer is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; and David Aldridge is supported by The University of Cambridge, St Catharine’s College and Corpus Christi College.
 

Reference:

D.F. Willer & D.C. Aldridge, ‘Vitamin bullets. Microencapsulated feeds to fortify shellfish and tackle human nutrient deficiencies’, Frontiers in Nutrition (July 2020). DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00102

Cambridge scientists have developed a new way to fortify shellfish to tackle human nutrient deficiencies which cause severe health problems across the world. The team is now working with major seafood manufacturers to further test their microencapsulation technology, or “Vitamin Bullets”. 

Targeted use of this technology in regions worst affected by nutrient deficiencies ... could help improve the health of millionsDavid WillerImage by Yung-pin Pao from PixabayOystersRead on

Learn more about the work of David Willer and Dr David Aldridge in this feature.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Latest News (<front>)

Scientists supercharge shellfish to tackle vitamin deficiency in humans

Research News - Mon, 20/07/2020 - 08:00

Over two billion people worldwide are nutrient deficient, leading to a wide range of serious health problems. Fortifying food with micronutrients is already an industry standard for enhancing public health but now scientists at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology have teamed up with Cambridge-based company BioBullets to supercharge one of the world’s most healthy and sustainable sources of animal protein: bivalve shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels.

Dr David Aldridge and PhD student David Willer have produced the world’s first microcapsule specially designed to deliver nutrients to bivalves which are beneficial to human health. These “Vitamin Bullets” – manufactured under patent by Aldridge’s company, BioBullets – are tailored for optimal size, shape, buoyancy and to appeal to shellfish.

This breakthrough, described in a study published today in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, is particularly valuable because when we eat bivalves, we consume the entire organism including its gut, meaning that we digest the nutrients which the animals consumed towards the end of their lives. This makes bivalve shellfish the ideal target for nutritional fortification.

In their Cambridge laboratory, the scientists trialled Vitamin A and D fortified microcapsules on over 100 oysters to identify the optimal dose. They also established that this should be fed for 8 hours towards the end of “depuration”, the period in which bivalves are held in cleansing tanks after being harvested.

The team found that fortified oysters delivered around 100 times more Vitamin A, and over 150 times more Vitamin D, than natural oysters. Even more importantly, they dramatically outperformed salmon, one of the best natural sources of these vitamins. The fortified oysters provided more than 26 times more Vitamin A and over four times more Vitamin D than salmon. The scientists found that a serving of just two of their supercharged shellfish provided enough Vitamin A and D to meet human Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDAs). 

Vitamin A and D deficiencies pose a particularly serious public health challenge – in Ghana more than 76% of children are Vitamin A deficient, causing widespread mortality and blindness. In India, 85% of the population is Vitamin D deficient, which causes cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and rickets. Even in the US, over 40% of people are Vitamin D deficient.

David Willer said: “We have demonstrated a cheap and effective way to get micronutrients into a sustainable and delicious source of protein. Targeted use of this technology in regions worst affected by nutrient deficiencies, using carefully selected bivalve species and micronutrients, could help improve the health of millions, while also reducing the harm that meat production is doing to the environment”.

David Aldridge said: “We are very excited about BioBullets’ potential. We are now establishing links with some of the world’s biggest seafood manufacturers to drive a step change in the sustainability and nutritional value of the seafood that we consume.”

Bivalves have a higher protein content than beef, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and have some of the highest levels of key minerals of all animal foods. Nevertheless, the nutrients that they deliver naturally is unlikely to solve global deficiencies. These shellfish are also highly sustainable to farm, having a far lower environmental footprint than animal meat or fish, and lower even than many plant crops such as wheat, soya, and rice. 

Bivalves are a highly affordable food source when produced at large scale and the global market is rapidly expanding. Production in China alone has grown 1000-fold since 1980 and there is great potential to sustainably expand bivalve aquaculture worldwide, with over 1,500,000 km2 available for sustainable low-cost industry development, particularly around the west coast of Africa and India.

The researchers point out that consumers in poorer regions where vitamin deficiencies are most prevalent are more likely to buy slightly more expensive fortified food than to make additional purchases to take supplement pills. They calculate that fortification adds just $0.0056 to the cost of producing a single oyster.

David Willer is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; and David Aldridge is supported by The University of Cambridge, St Catharine’s College and Corpus Christi College.
 

Reference:

D.F. Willer & D.C. Aldridge, ‘Vitamin bullets. Microencapsulated feeds to fortify shellfish and tackle human nutrient deficiencies’, Frontiers in Nutrition (July 2020). DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00102

Cambridge scientists have developed a new way to fortify shellfish to tackle human nutrient deficiencies which cause severe health problems across the world. The team is now working with major seafood manufacturers to further test their microencapsulation technology, or “Vitamin Bullets”. 

Targeted use of this technology in regions worst affected by nutrient deficiencies ... could help improve the health of millionsDavid WillerImage by Yung-pin Pao from PixabayOystersRead on

Learn more about the work of David Willer and Dr David Aldridge in this feature.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes

Predators vs. Prey: The information ecology of warning signals

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Sat, 18/07/2020 - 01:00
Predators vs. Prey: The information ecology of warning signals Hämäläinen, Liisa Lotta Explaining the origin and maintenance of aposematism has remained a challenge for evolutionary biologists because conspicuous warning signals are predicted to have a high initial predation cost before predators learn to avoid them. Most previous work has assumed that predators need to sample prey individually (personal information) to learn about these defences, however recent research suggests that observing predation events of others (social information) may also shape selection for prey defences and help resolve this puzzle. Here I use great tits and blue tits as model predators to investigate what influences predators’ decisions to use different types of information when encountering novel prey, how information use varies across predator species, and whether this can operate in a predator community in the wild. First, I investigated if previous experience with toxins increases great tits’ reliance on social information about novel aposematic prey, but found that toxin load had no effect: socially-educated birds consumed fewer aposematic prey, regardless. This indicates that social information can reduce predation pressure on novel aposematic prey even when a predator’s risk of increasing their toxin load is low. Social interactions among predators might, however, also increase predation on aposematic prey if predators gather social information about the presence of palatable mimics. Therefore, I next investigated if educated great tits became more likely to consume mimics after observing warning signals being palatable but found that the birds were hesitant to sample palatable mimics, regardless of social information. These results suggest that while social information about models is potent in increasing predator avoidance, model-mimic dynamics are unlikely to be affected when predators have recent personal experience of the model’s unpalatability. Because predator communities are often complex and consist of multiple species, I next extended my work to blue tits that typically form mixed-species flocks with great tits. I first tested whether video playback is a suitable method for providing social information for blue tits. I then investigated conspecific and heterospecific information use in blue tits and great tits, and found that both species used social information about aposematic prey, including information from heterospecifics. Finally, I tested the ecological relevance of my results with a field experiment where blue tits and great tits were presented with novel palatable and unpalatable food. I conducted the experiment in the summer when naïve juveniles are abundant and aposematic prey suffer high predation. Consistent with my work with birds in captivity, I found that both species used social information in their food choices also in the wild. Together, my findings demonstrate that social transmission of knowledge about prey defences shapes predator-prey communities, and an information ecology approach can therefore help us to understand the evolution and maintenance of prey warning signals.

On the ecological transitions between parasitism and mutualism

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Sat, 18/07/2020 - 01:00
On the ecological transitions between parasitism and mutualism Sun, Syuan-Jyun Species interactions are pivotal to biodiversity structure and ecosystem functioning. Nevertheless, interactions between species are ecologically variable within the same pair of interacting species, lying on a mutualism-parasitism continuum. Identifying the underlying mechanisms and context dependency of such ecological dynamics is essential to understand the responses of interacting species to rapidly changing environments. In this thesis, I investigate the ecological factors that cause transitions between parasitism and mutualism, using the burying beetles (Nicrophorus vespilloides) and their phoretic mites (the species complex Poecilochirus carabi) as a model symbiosis. I begin by showing that P. carabi is the most abundant mite species associating with burying beetles, and that it coexists with the mite Macrocheles nataliae. I show that each species attaches to a distinct part of the beetle’s body, so facilitating their co-existence. Furthermore, I show that distinct behavioural and biomechanical adaptations enable each mite species to occupy their preferred locations. This finding reveals that niche partitioning can occur within macroscopic symbiotic communities even when they coexist upon the same host animal. Next, I investigate whether P. carabi mites and N. vespilloides are ever (by-product) mutualists. I assess whether mites assist beetles when competing with conspecifics for ownership of the carcass. Using infrared thermography, I find that beetles with mites attain a higher body temperature, and that this makes them more likely to win contests against conspecifics. However, mites confer this thermal benefit only upon smaller beetles, who generate more heat than larger beetles when carrying mites, which is then trapped by the layer of mites on the beetle’s body. For larger beetles, mites are parasitic. They maintain a high body temperature and win contests for a carcass singlehandedly, and then produce fewer larvae when breeding alongside mites. Burying beetles also commonly face fierce competition from blowflies for the resources upon a carcass. Combining field manipulations and laboratory experiments, I find that mites are in a protective mutualism with beetles because they eliminate blowflies from the carcass, and so promote burying beetle reproductive success. I also find that the extent of this mutualism is dependent upon temperature. At lower temperatures, and when blowflies are absent, mites reduce beetle reproductive success. They are most effective at promoting beetle reproductive success at higher temperatures, at which blowflies pose more of a competitive threat. Finally, I investigate whether the number of burying beetle species present in a woodland can tip the relationship between mites and their N. vespilloides hosts from mutualism to parasitism. I discover that neighbouring woodlands (Waresley and Gamlingay Woods in Cambridgeshire, UK) harbour two and four species of burying beetle, respectively. Furthermore, each species of burying beetle is associated with a different race of P. carabi mite. I show that mite races can be locally adapted to their host beetle species. However, I also find that mite races mix, so that one burying beetle species can be host to multiple P. carabi mite races, and that this happens more frequently when there are more burying beetle species present in one woodland. Burying beetles are then more likely to be in an antagonistic relationship with the mites they carry: local adaptation experiments reveal that N. vespilloides in Gamlingay Wood is in a more antagonistic relationship with P. carabi mites than N. vespilloides from Waresley Wood. Thus temperature, the density of mites and the density of rivals for the carrion breeding resource independently influence whether the relationship between N. vespilloides and P. carabi is more likely to be mutualistic or antagonistic.

Reconstructing Population Histories in Relation to Ecology

Research output from Zoology (trial) - Fri, 17/07/2020 - 01:00
Reconstructing Population Histories in Relation to Ecology Miller, Eleanor We live in an era of significant environmental and climatic change and it has even been suggested that the world is entering a new epoch, the ‘Anthropocene’. To understand better how species might cope under different future climate scenarios, studies are now frequently looking to explore how they responded to rapid environmental change in the past. Whilst census data can capture contemporary trends, genetic approaches can infer population trends stretching tens, or even thousands, of years back in time. In this thesis, I first used skyline plots to infer historical demographic trends from genetic data of a well-studied system, humans. Using this gold standard, my work revealed detailed demographic profiles, but also identified issues relating to the way key methodological assumptions are contravened. In Chapter 2 I present a discussion about the risk of misinterpretation or overinterpretation in the context of Bayesian skyline plot (BSP) analysis. Understanding that any single profile can be problematic, when moving to non-model species, I chose to work as many species as possible. This approach exploits the recent boom in sequencing projects that has generated a huge volume of publicly available data. By building large, novel, multi-species datasets it becomes possible to construct profiles averaged over many species with similar properties, such as habitat preference. The expectation is that average profiles will prove better at capturing broad trends for the species they contain. Collating and processing public domain data is not a trivial task. I therefore developed a pipeline, now an R package, to access and compile sequence data for over 100 species of bird, focusing on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). I found differences in the mean time of population expansion after the ice age between bird species associated with different habitats. However, notably, the demographic trends drawn from BSPs did not reveal a close match with the amount of available habitat indicated by species distribution models. BSPs frequently indicated population increases even though species’ habitat ranges were decreasing. These results further emphasise the level of care needed when interpreting BSPs. If genetic methods for demographic reconstruction are to be used extensively in the future, it is important that we understand what confounding factors commonly exist in real world populations so as to prevent misleading or inaccurate interpretations. To explore the impact of historic range dynamics on BSPs I created a realistic spatial demographic model for a small North American passerine, the yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia). From this I simulated mtDNA sequences for a number of populations across the modern species’ range. With these data I’d hoped to investigate how BSP profiles varied depending on local population history. However, true demographic signals proved hard to capture and further work will be required to explore my original question more fully.

Economic benefits of protecting 30% of the planet outweigh the costs at least 5-to-1

News from this site - Fri, 10/07/2020 - 09:05

In the most comprehensive report to date on the economic implications of protecting nature, over 100 economists and scientists find that the global economy would benefit from the establishment of far more protected areas on land and at sea than exist today. The report considers various scenarios of protecting at least 30%...

Categories: Latest News (<front>)

Learn from the pandemic to prevent environmental catastrophe, scientists argue

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Thu, 02/07/2020 - 11:24

The dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic share “striking similarities” with the twin environmental crises of global heating and species extinction, argue a team of scientists and policy experts from the UK and US.

They say that lessons learned the hard way in containing COVID-19 – the need for early intervention to reduce death and economic damage; the curbing of some aspects of people’s lifestyles for the good of all of us – should also be at the heart of averting environmental catastrophe.

“We’ve seen the consequences of delayed action in the fight against COVID-19. The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplate,” said Prof Andrew Balmford, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, Balmford and colleagues argue that the spread of coronavirus shares common characteristics with both global heating and the impending “sixth mass extinction”.

For example, each new COVID-19 case can spawn others and so lead to escalating infection rates, just as hotter climates alter ecosystems, increasing emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause warming. “Both are dangerous feedback loops,” argue the scientists.

The team also draw comparisons of what they term “lagged impacts”. For coronavirus, the delay – or lag – before symptoms materialise means infected people spread the disease before they feel effects and change behaviour.

The researchers equate this with the lag between our destruction of habitat and eventual species extinction, as well as lags between the emissions we pump out and the full effects of global heating, such as sea-level rise. As with viral infection, behaviour change may come too late.

“Like the twin crises of extinction and climate, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic might have seemed like a distant problem at first, one far removed from most people’s everyday lives,” said coauthor Ben Balmford from the University of Exeter.

“But left unchecked for too long, the disease has forced major changes to the way we live. The same will be true of the environmental devastation we are causing, except the consequences could be truly irreversible.”

The authors find parallels in the indifference that has long greeted warnings from the scientific community about both new zoonotic diseases and human-induced shifts in climate and habitat.

“The lagged impacts, feedback loops and complex dynamics of pandemics and environmental crises mean that identifying and responding to these challenges requires governments to listen to independent scientists,” said Dr Brendan Fisher, a coauthor from the University of Vermont. “Such voices have been tragically ignored.”

The similarities between the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and environmental disaster lie not just in their nature but also in their mitigation, say the scientists, who write that “there is no substitute for early action”.

The researchers include an analysis of the timing of lockdown across OECD countries, and conclude that if it had come just a week earlier then around 17,000 lives in the UK (up to 21 May 2020) would have been saved, and nearly 45,000 in the US.

They say that, just as delayed lockdown cost thousands of lives, delayed climate action that gives us 2oC of warming rather than 1.5 will expose an estimated extra 62-457 million people – mainly the world’s poorest – to “multi-sector climate risks” such as drought, flooding and famine.

Similarly, conservation programmes are less likely to succeed the longer they are delayed. “As wilderness disappears we see an accelerating feedback loop, as a given loss of habitat causes ever-greater species loss,” explained Princeton Professor and co-author David Wilcove.    

The scientists point out that delayed action resulting in more COVID-19 deaths will also cost those nations more in economic growth, according to IMF estimates, just as hotter and more disruptive climates will curtail economic prosperity.

Intervening to contain both the pandemic and the environmental crises requires decision-makers and citizens to act in the interests of society as a whole, argue the researchers.

“In the COVID-19 crisis we’ve seen young and working age people sacrificing education, income and social connection primarily for the benefit of older and more vulnerable people,” said co-author Prof Dame Georgina Mace from UCL.

“To stem the impacts of climate change and address biodiversity loss, wealthier and older adults will have to forgo short-term material extravagance for the benefit of the present-day poor and future generations. It’s time to keep our end of the social bargain,” Mace said.

Cambridge’s Andrew Balmford added: “Scientists are not inventing these environmental threats, just as they weren’t inventing the threat of a pandemic such as COVID-19. They are real, and they are upon us.”

COVID-19 is comparable to climate and extinction emergencies, say scientists from the UK and US – all share features such as lagged impacts, feedback loops, and complex dynamics.

The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplateAndrew BalmfordBalinda O'NealUS National Guard working to extinguish wildfires in Alaska


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Attribution-Noncommerical
Categories: Latest News (<front>)

Learn from the pandemic to prevent environmental catastrophe, scientists argue

Research News - Thu, 02/07/2020 - 11:24

The dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic share “striking similarities” with the twin environmental crises of global heating and species extinction, argue a team of scientists and policy experts from the UK and US.

They say that lessons learned the hard way in containing COVID-19 – the need for early intervention to reduce death and economic damage; the curbing of some aspects of people’s lifestyles for the good of all of us – should also be at the heart of averting environmental catastrophe.

“We’ve seen the consequences of delayed action in the fight against COVID-19. The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplate,” said Prof Andrew Balmford, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, Balmford and colleagues argue that the spread of coronavirus shares common characteristics with both global heating and the impending “sixth mass extinction”.

For example, each new COVID-19 case can spawn others and so lead to escalating infection rates, just as hotter climates alter ecosystems, increasing emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause warming. “Both are dangerous feedback loops,” argue the scientists.

The team also draw comparisons of what they term “lagged impacts”. For coronavirus, the delay – or lag – before symptoms materialise means infected people spread the disease before they feel effects and change behaviour.

The researchers equate this with the lag between our destruction of habitat and eventual species extinction, as well as lags between the emissions we pump out and the full effects of global heating, such as sea-level rise. As with viral infection, behaviour change may come too late.

“Like the twin crises of extinction and climate, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic might have seemed like a distant problem at first, one far removed from most people’s everyday lives,” said coauthor Ben Balmford from the University of Exeter.

“But left unchecked for too long, the disease has forced major changes to the way we live. The same will be true of the environmental devastation we are causing, except the consequences could be truly irreversible.”

The authors find parallels in the indifference that has long greeted warnings from the scientific community about both new zoonotic diseases and human-induced shifts in climate and habitat.

“The lagged impacts, feedback loops and complex dynamics of pandemics and environmental crises mean that identifying and responding to these challenges requires governments to listen to independent scientists,” said Dr Brendan Fisher, a coauthor from the University of Vermont. “Such voices have been tragically ignored.”

The similarities between the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and environmental disaster lie not just in their nature but also in their mitigation, say the scientists, who write that “there is no substitute for early action”.

The researchers include an analysis of the timing of lockdown across OECD countries, and conclude that if it had come just a week earlier then around 17,000 lives in the UK (up to 21 May 2020) would have been saved, and nearly 45,000 in the US.

They say that, just as delayed lockdown cost thousands of lives, delayed climate action that gives us 2oC of warming rather than 1.5 will expose an estimated extra 62-457 million people – mainly the world’s poorest – to “multi-sector climate risks” such as drought, flooding and famine.

Similarly, conservation programmes are less likely to succeed the longer they are delayed. “As wilderness disappears we see an accelerating feedback loop, as a given loss of habitat causes ever-greater species loss,” explained Princeton Professor and co-author David Wilcove.    

The scientists point out that delayed action resulting in more COVID-19 deaths will also cost those nations more in economic growth, according to IMF estimates, just as hotter and more disruptive climates will curtail economic prosperity.

Intervening to contain both the pandemic and the environmental crises requires decision-makers and citizens to act in the interests of society as a whole, argue the researchers.

“In the COVID-19 crisis we’ve seen young and working age people sacrificing education, income and social connection primarily for the benefit of older and more vulnerable people,” said co-author Prof Dame Georgina Mace from UCL.

“To stem the impacts of climate change and address biodiversity loss, wealthier and older adults will have to forgo short-term material extravagance for the benefit of the present-day poor and future generations. It’s time to keep our end of the social bargain,” Mace said.

Cambridge’s Andrew Balmford added: “Scientists are not inventing these environmental threats, just as they weren’t inventing the threat of a pandemic such as COVID-19. They are real, and they are upon us.”

COVID-19 is comparable to climate and extinction emergencies, say scientists from the UK and US – all share features such as lagged impacts, feedback loops, and complex dynamics.

The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplateAndrew BalmfordBalinda O'NealUS National Guard working to extinguish wildfires in Alaska


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Human interactions with wild and farmed animals must change dramatically to reduce risk of another deadly pandemic

Cam ac uk zoology department feed - Thu, 25/06/2020 - 10:10

The authors of the new report argue that well-meaning but simplistic actions such as complete bans on hunting and wildlife trade, ‘wet markets’ or consumption of wild animals may be unachievable and are not enough to prevent another pandemic. Measures like these can be difficult to implement so must be carefully planned to prevent proliferation of illegal trade, or alienation and increasing hardship for local communities across the world who depend on wild animals as food.

Zoonotic diseases of epidemic potential can also transmit from farmed wildlife (such as civets) and domesticated animals (as exemplified by swine flu and avian flu), with greater risks occurring where humans, livestock and wildlife closely interact. 

Compiled by a team of 25 international experts, the study considered all major ways that diseases with high potential for human to human transmission can jump from animals to humans (termed zoonotic diseases). The authors say that dealing with such a complicated mix of potential sources of infection requires widespread changes to the ways humans and animals interact.

“A lot of recent campaigns have focused on banning the trade of wild animals, and dealing with wild animal trade is really important yet it’s only one of many potential routes of infection. We should not assume the next pandemic will arise in the same way as COVID-19; we need to be acting on a wider scale to reduce the risk,” said Professor William Sutherland in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and the BioRISC Research Initiative at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, who headed the research.

Potential ways another human pandemic could arise include: wildlife farming, transport, trade and consumption; international or long distance trade of livestock; international trade of exotic animals for pets; increased human encroachment into wildlife habitats; antimicrobial resistance - especially in relation to intensive farming and pollution; and bioterrorism.

Some of the ways to reduce the risk of another pandemic are relatively simple, such as encouraging smallholder farmers to keep chickens or ducks away from people. Others, like improving biosecurity and introducing adequate veterinary and hygiene standards for farmed animals across the world, would require significant financial investment on a global scale. 

The 161 options include:
• Laws to prevent the mixing of different wild animals or the mixing of wild and domestic animals during transport and at markets;
• Increase switching to plant-based foods to reduce consumption of, and demand for, animal products;
• Safety protocols for caving in areas with high bat density, such as use of waterproof coveralls and masks;
• Improve animal health on farms by limiting stocking densities and ensuring high standards of veterinary care.

“We can’t completely prevent further pandemics, but there are a range of options that can substantially reduce the risk. Most zoonotic pathogens are not capable of sustained human-to-human transmission, but some can cause major epidemics. Preventing their transfer to humans is a major challenge for society and also a priority for protecting public health,” said Dr Silviu Petrovan, a veterinarian and wildlife expert from the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study. 

“Wild animals aren’t the problem - they don’t cause disease emergence. People do. At the root of the problem is human behaviour, so changing this provides the solution,” said Professor Andrew Cunningham, Deputy Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London and co-author of the study.

Solutions were focused on measures that can be put in place in society at local, regional and international scales. The study did not consider the development of vaccines and other medical and veterinary medicine options. It does not offer recommendations, but a set of options to help policy-makers and practitioners think carefully about possible courses of action. 

All categories of animal - wildlife, captive, feral, and domestic - were included in the study. The focus was on diseases, particularly viruses, which could rapidly become epidemics through high rates of human-to-human transmission once they have jumped from an animal. This excludes some well-known zoonotic diseases such as rabies and Lyme disease that require continuous transmission from animals.

The report is currently being peer reviewed. The findings were generated by a method called Solution Scanning, which uses a wide range of sources to identify a range of options for a given problem. Sources included the scientific literature, position papers by Non-Governmental Organisations, industry guidelines, experts in different fields, and the expertise of the study team itself.

This work was funded by The David and Claudia Harding Foundation, Arcadia, and MAVA.

Reference (unpublished report available as preprint)
Petrovan, S. et al: Post COVID-19: a solution scan of options for preventing future zoonotic epidemics. DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/5JX3G. 
 

How you can support Cambridge’s COVID-19 research

 

Compiled by a team of international wildlife and veterinary experts, a new study has identified seven routes by which pandemics could occur and 161 options for reducing the risk. It concludes that widespread changes to the way we interact with animals are needed; solutions that only address one issue – such as the trade in wild animals – are not enough.

We can’t completely prevent further pandemics, but there are a range of options that can substantially reduce the risk.Silviu PetrovanPig farm by Harriet BartlettPig farming


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