An extra £2.35 million in funding has been allocated for the research of diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks.

The additional funding for the vector-borne diseases (VBD) was announced today (Tuesday, May 16) by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The funds will go towards four research projects that will monitor and control tick-borne diseases, investigate the transmission pathways of mosquito-borne viruses, and assess the risks of tick-borne disease through rewilding and reforestation.

APHA and Defra said these diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks cause in excess of 700,000 deaths every year and are a “major threat” to both global animal health and global human health.

APHA director of scientific services, Ian Brown, said: “APHA’s world-leading scientists and staff play an important role in protecting the UK from growing biosecurity threats such as vector-borne diseases – this funding will develop our research further.

“Working in collaboration with research organisations and institutions, we will be able to reduce the threat to human, animal, plant and environmental health posed by these diseases.”

Research projects

The funding will support two APHA-led projects, including TickTools – a three-year project backed by £1.2 million to develop the tools to monitor and control tick-borne diseases.

The agency said it will bring together researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow and investigate the basic biology of tick-borne pathogen.

The other APHA-led project is Vector-Borne RADAR (Real-time Arbovirus Detection And Response), a three-year £1.15 million project, which brings together the UK Health Security Agency, Institute of Zoology and the British Trust for Ornithology.

APHA said the project will improve understanding of how these viruses emerge in new environments, enhance surveillance of diseases in wild birds in the UK and develop an early warning system for disease outbreaks.

The other two research projects will be supported by APHA and will focus on helping to improve interventions and producing recommendations for minimising risks of tick-borne diseases through rewilding and reforestation.

Defra co-funded the VBD research call alongside UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), providing £7 million investment into this research.

Defra’s chief scientific advisor, Prof. Gideon Henderson, said: “The funding for this important research, which brings together a wealth of expertise from some of the best scientific institutions in the UK, will continue to build and prepare the UK for the emergence of endemic and exotic vector-borne diseases.

“This coordinated scientific effort forms part of the UK’s commitment to work at the interface between environmental, human and animal health to improve outcomes for all.”