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Activity title

Development of Depository of fast and reliable Detection Methods for Zoonotic Agents

Activity Reference



Human Factors and Medicine

Security Classification



Awaiting Publication

Activity type


Start date


End date



bacteria., bio-terrorism, molecular biology, serology, virus, Zoonoses


A zoonosis is any infectious disease that can be transmitted from non-human animals, both wild and domestic, to humans. Zoonoses have been known since early historical times (i.e. plague, anthrax). Of the 1415 pathogens known to affect humans, 61% are zoonotic. The interdisciplinary field of human and veterinary medicine is already largely concerned with zoonoses as outbreaks of (re-)emerging pathogens regularly occur (e.g. Ebola, Lassa, Nipah, Hendra viruses, new Influenza strains, EHEC strains, some Salmonella strains). Zoonoses are of military interest because they are often emerging or even unrecognized diseases, or have increased virulence in populations lacking immunity. Moreover, one of the major factors contributing to the appearance of new zoonotic pathogens in human populations is increased contact between humans and wildlife. Deployed troops are thus at risk for zoonotic diseases, while the risk of pathogen transfer from a deployment area to the nation of origin is also a concern. Infectious diseases acquired in the operation zone do still account for more military hospital admissions than battlefield injuries. Whilst these arguments are valid for natural acquired pathogens, consideration should be given to the use of zoonotic agents as a possible biological weapon, the list of agents that can be a candidate biological weapon consists for 70% of zoonotic pathogens. The easy access to these agents in nature is a serious problem for biological weapons proliferation and is increasing the probability of a serious bio-terrorism incident. Concerted action for detection and surveillance is thus of importance, together with dissemination of data and information between NATO partners. Finally, zoonotic parasitic diseases are transmitted to humans by ingesting spores, cysts, oocysts, ova, larval and encysted stages, but mainly by eating raw or undercooked meat containing infective tissue stages. Humans can be final, intermediate or accidental hosts. While the transmission of some of these zoonoses can be directly (e.g. by human-animal contact or through contact with contaminated faeces, soil, etc), they can also be transmitted through contaminated water and food. Water and food can be sources of infection. The water-food connection for parasite zoonoses has faeces as a major vehicle for many environmental transmissive stages, only few pathogens (e.g. Encephalitozoon cuniculi and Schistosoma haematobium) contaminate the environment via urine. The contamination by the various stages can be direct or indirect. The disposal of animal (and human) waste in many countries remains a significant operational problem. Water is the major route for parasites, and by direct consumption or by the use of contaminated water it is an important source of infection for humans.


The RTG will define standards for first line (“in the field”) and second line (“in the lab”) detection and identification methods for viral and bacterial zoonoses. The RTG will also review the outbreak alert system and on-sight surveillance and create a list of pathogen collections of which items can serve as positive control or for validation purposes.


• Depository of fast, reliable detection and identification methods for viral zoonoses. • Depository of fast, reliable detection and identification methods for bacterial zoonoses. • Charting existing pathogen collections / defining priority pathogens. • Outbreak alert communication. • On-sight surveillance of priority pathogens.

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