Environment Secretary George Eustice has today (Wednesday, February 16) confirmed that the government is investing £200 million in the fight against zoonotic diseases.
A zoonotic disease is a disease which can be transmitted from animals to humans, or vice versa. Examples include Covid-19, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza (bird flu) and bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).
This investment will go towards revamping the state-of-the-art facilities at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, which focuses on tackling and eradicating high-risk animal diseases.
New equipment and specialist testing facilities will help the APHA scientists to better identify pathogens for existing and emerging threats posed by diseases spread by animals.
Research at Weybridge formerly paved the way for field trials of a bTB cattle vaccine which if successful, will enable farmers to vaccinate their animas against this deadly disease.
The APHA is also currently battling the UK's outbreak of bird flu, which is the largest-ever on record.
“The UK is a world leader when it comes to science and biosecurity. I have seen for myself the remarkable work done by APHA in responding to the recent outbreak of avian influenza, and in paving the way for field trials of a cattle vaccine against bovine Tuberculosis," said Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon.
“This investment builds on a long-term programme to future-proof our animal health capabilities, and ensure that we are at the forefront of defence against future pandemics.”
“Fast, reliable testing and world class animal disease surveillance is vital in halting the spread of animals diseases and mitigating the risk of pandemics," added Christine Middlemiss, the UK's chief veterinary officer.
“This investment ensures APHA can continue its critical role in animal health science and help stop the spread of disease.”