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A concerted action for the establishment of a European network on wildlife as a reservoir of pathogens including zoonoses

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4361
Project nr: 4361
Project type: CA
Starting date: 01/02/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 300,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 300,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Isabel MINGUEZ-TUDELA
Research topic: Animal health

The importance of wildlife diseases has been increasing in recent years as a result of several factors including conservation policies. The sustainability of endangered populations is not only based on environmental aspects (habitat maintenance, decrease of human impact....) but also on the health status of the population. In this sense, infectious and parasitic diseases are recognized as being an essential factor for wildlife conservation which is currently gaining importance.

The captive propagation and reintroduction of endangered species are one of the most widely used methods for conservation, but the re-introduction programs may pose a serious risk of transmitting infectious diseases into native wildlife populations. Moreover, these conservation procedures could also lead to a number of situations like reciprocal domestic-wild animals disease transmission and even zoonotic diseases must be considered at this point. For this reason animal health as a whole should be considered to be one of the most relevant factors in any well-designed conservation policy. Wild animals are known to be reservoirs of a number of zoonoses.

The relationship betzeen wildlife diseases and public health is a reality and should be a matter of concern for sanitary authorities throughout the world. The control of wildlife diseases is, therefore, a useful tool for the prevention and control of some zoonoses. Social awareness on diseases transmitted from wild animals could even act as a mechanism leading to a minor interaction between humans and wildlife populations. Wildlife as reservoirs of domestic animals diseases.

There is an increasing interest in wildlife diseases because of the interference of the wild reservoir with Eradication Programs for livestock diseases (e.g. Brucellosis, Tuberculosis). These problems did not arise until some Eradication Programs have been almost completed in several countries; They have led to a remarkable interest in the role of wild animals as reservoirs of domestic animals diseases, also those which are not under Eradication Programs. There are still many unknown or poorly understood aspects about the role of wildlife as reservoirs of domestic animals diseases. Any improvement in our knowledge on this particular matter should therefore be interesting from a dual point of view: as a source of criteria regarding management of diseases in wildlife populations and their interaction with domestic animals and, as a consequence, providing methods of controlling diseases of significative economic importance.

The proposed European Network on Wildlife as Reservoirs of Pathogens is meant to interrelate laboratories, universities. Research centers and any other organization working on prevention and control of wild (both captive and free-living) animals diseases, with special attention to those transmissible to domestic animals and man. The establishment of such a network should provide both an epidemiologic and a wildlife diseases laboratory diagnostics systems for wildlife diseases, but also a mechanism of communication and cooperation among people involved in wildlife diseases and their implications in animal and human health.

During the first year of the Concerted Action it took place the First General Meeting of the European Network on Wildlife as Reservoirs of Pathogens, in which the Partners got agreement on how to develop the main points of the Network objectives.

  • The European Catalogue of Wildlife Diseases: to create or establish a list as the result of a preliminary survey among the potential participants. It could be used as a previous document to set up an European Catalogue of Transmissible Diseases of Wildlife with special emphasis on zoonoses and on a common livestock and wildlife diseases.
  • The Epidemiological Alert System: to develop a reporting system that will permit to give information about diseases of the list A and B of the OIE affecting wildlife.
  • The Wildlife Disease Laboratory System: to identificate the wildlife diseases diagnostic laboratories, techniques, the conservation institutions and centres related with wildlife within the EU.

Current situation/results:

The development of the European Wildlife Diseases Catalogue is in course, after a discussion among the participants, in the first meeting of the Concerted Action, reaching a final agreement on which diseases were included and which were not.

We are collecting the information about the wildlife diseases laboratory diagnostic of the EU and creating a database to be including in the Wildlife Network.


Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Dpto. Sanidad Animal
Avenida Puerta de Hierro s/n
E-28040 Madrid
Tel.: +34 91 394 39 10
Fax: +34 91 394 39 08


  • School of Veterinary Medicine of Madrid
    Dpto. Patología Animal I (Sanidad Animal)
    Laboratorio de Diagnóstico Microbiológico de Animales Salvajes y Exóticos (Spain)

  • School of Veterinary Medicine
    University of Utrecht
    Dpt. of Veterinary Pathology
    Section of Zoo and Wildlife
    (The Netherlands)

  • Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire
    Université de Liège
    Dpt. de Bactériologie et de Pathologie des Maladies Bactériennes

  • Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal of Valdeolmos

  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
    Aristotle University
    Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

  • The National Veterinary Institute
    Dpt of Disease Control and Biosecurity

  • Parque Nacional de Doñana
    Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestre "El Acebuche"

  • AFSSA-Alfort / AFSSA-Nancy
    Unité d'Epidémiologie
    Wildlife Health and Management

  • Moredum Research Institute
    Animal Disease
    (United Kingdom)

  • Institute for Zoo Biology and Wildlife Research

  • Central Veterinary Laboratory
    Avian Virology Dpt.
    (United Kingdom)

  • National Institute of Public Health and Enviromental Microbiology
    Laboratory for Health Protection (RIVM)
    (The Netherlands)

  • Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Vet. Med.
    Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Vétérinaires et Agrochimiques

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