13 Oct 2012

New infectious disease research centre

4:41 pm on 13 October 2012

Massey University is taking a collective approach to combating diseases that threaten human, animal and plant health, as well as biosecurity and trade.

It's combining the expertise of six groups spread over three campuses in a new infectious disease research centre.

The groups include veterinary, public health and statistical research teams.

Centre director Nigel French says it recognises that a multi-disciplinary approach is more effective.

He says it's known as the "one health approach" and involves people with expertise working across the boundaries between human and animal health, for example.

Professor French says most of the human infectious diseases originally came from animals or have reservoirs in animals.

He says the centre has been using techniques in microbiology, in molecular biology, in statistical modelling and mathematics to tackle some of the big issues around human health.

"I guess one of the best examples is the control of what was the most notified human disease in New Zealand, campylobacter, which comes from animals. And using that combined approach we were able to inform major policy decisions for the control of infection and that's resulted in a 50% reduction in human cases."

Professor French says controlling salmonella in dairy cattle and PSA in kiwifruit are other examples of where the multi-disciplinary approach to disease control is paying dividends.