The human intestine uses an army of bacteria to extract nutrients from the digested food that passes through it. At the same time, our intestine is vulnerable to harmful microbes that can cause a range of gastrointestinal disorders. Fortunately, the food and food supplements that we consume can also support beneficial gut microbes which help to fight off the harmful ones. As part of a strong drive by the European Union to improve the health and quality of life of European citizens, it has clustered several multidisciplinary research projects on food, the functionality of the gastrointestinal tract, and human health under a generic umbrella called PROEUHEALTH. Since 2001, the aim of this multidisciplinary research network has been to disseminate information, results, and highlights among Europe's scientists, industrialists and consumers. Furthermore, the cluster has a mission to organise debates and discussion forums among these three audiences.
Initiatives are already in place to spread the results of this wide research programme, with its 64 different research groups from 16 European countries, throughout the current Member States. In addition, the EU wants to bring the Candidate Countries into the network so that they too can benefit from this work and the results. It has set up a new Specific Support Action, GUTHEALTH, which - over a three-year period will promote a range of activities intended to improve knowledge about intestinal health in Candidate Countries (including those that became new Member States on 1 May 2004).
SPREADING THE WORD
GUTHEALTH is organising six innovative roadshows for those Candidate Countries with an active interest in nutrition: Estonia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Malta and Latvia/Bulgaria. Their aim is to share European research results on food, intestinal microbiota and human health with a targeted audience, and to show how this research can be translated into consumer products. Local organisers will be recruited from the interested scientific community to help run these roadshows and to find local interest and contacts.
The roadshows will be held in central locations in major cities so that they are readily accessible. The organisers will select scientists and industrialists, along with a representative number of women, to attend the roadshows. The first roadshow has already been held in Tallinn, Estonia in January 2004, raising tremendous interest among local scientists and citizens. The next event will take place in Prague, Czech Republic, on 30 September 2004.
These events, alongside other GUTHEALTH initiatives, will be open to all the Candidate Countries. Advertisements and e-flyers on the PROEUHEALTH website will help to publicise them. The SME database of companies in the food, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals areas, in particular, will also be notified in case they have sister companies in the relevant countries.
Selected researchers from those countries being targeted will be invited to two-week courses with a high practical content, to teach them more about the GUTHEALTH field. The training will focus on identification of bacteria and microbial diversity, and will be aimed at Ph.D. and postdoctorate physicians, microbiologists and engineers, representing a good cross-section of all Candidate Countries. In this way, health science networks will be expanded to include members from these countries, enabling a cross-fertilisation of ideas and know-how between the different areas of gut bacteria research. The first training course took place in October 2003 in Paris, France.
Targeted invitations will be issued for three international conferences, planned to take place outside the GUTHEALTH programme, including one on PROEUHEALTH and another on lactic acid bacteria. GUTHEALTH will endeavour to invite a wide spectrum of researchers, representatives from the food industry, policymakers, legislators, dieticians, and local organisations. This, in turn, will strengthen the networks involved in research collaboration and promoting gut health.
List of Partners
- VTT Biotechnology (Finland)
- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
- Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
- GUTHEALTH SUPPORT
- Full title:
- Networking in associated candidate countries towards food, Gi-tract functionality and human health
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Tiina Mattila-Sandholm,
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Dirk Pottier,
- EU contribution:
- € 350,000
- Specific Support Action