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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 04/08/2016

Avian Influenza, the role of the Agency

Keywords : Avian influenza, Animal diseases, Zoonosis, Animal health, H5N1 (Bird), Bird flu

The Agency’s activities concerning avian influenza can be divided into two levels of intervention and competence, one relating to research (within a national and international - mainly European - framework) and reference (as National Reference Laboratory: NRL), and the other concernig collective expert appraisals (conducted primarily at the national level).

Reference: a national mandate integrated in an international network

As NRL, the Agency coordinates a network of some fifteen laboratories, by validating and transferring techniques, organising regular interlaboratory proficiency tests, and providing reagents and advice. The NRL has moreoverbeen by accredited by COFRAC with a flexible scope for the development of PCR methods. In addition, the NRL provides confirmatory testing under COFRAC accreditationin the event of clinical suspicion and monitoring of livestock and wild birds. The NRL also participates annually in interlaboratory proficiency tests at the European level. This reference activity extends to methodological development, supplementing a culture collection and conducting extensive investigations for the genetic and antigenic characterisation of isolated strains.The Agency thus contributes to the FLU-LAB-NET network, which brings together 37 reference laboratories for Avian Influenza worldwide.

 

Research: an activity focused mainly on the domestic duck, a potential relay of transmission to other poultry species

In the recent past, through national and European programmes (the EPIZONE network, NOVADUCK project and FRIA research fund) the Agency has helped with the development of new generation vaccines against avian influenza in ducks, and in parallel, with the development of tests to differentiate infected animals from vaccinated animals (European FLUTEST project). The Agency has also contributed to the understanding of host-pathogen interactions through the European FLUPATH programme by comparing the expression of cellular genesfrom ducks after infection by viruses of varying virulence.

The Agency is currently pursuing work it initiated, in the framework of national and European programmes (European FLUAID programme), on the transmission of avian influenza viruses under natural and experimental conditions in ducks. Following a longitudinal study funded by the French Ministry of Agriculture, it in particular identified factors favouring the introduction of avian influenza viruses in livestock; it also established the transmission characteristics intrinsic to several strains of wild origin or generated at the Agency by genetic engineering (FRIA). Its current work focuses on the study of genetic characteristics of viruses that favour/determine their contagiosity and development towards virulence.

 

Collective expert appraisal

This activity mainly involves the emergency collective expert appraisal group (GECU) on Avian Influenza and the Expert Committee (CES) on Animal Health. 46 opinions have been issued since 2003 (45 on Animal Health and 1 on Water) and two reports.

At the international level, scientists from the Agency may be required to work with the European Commission, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Experts also participate in the OFFLU network (OIE/FAO) and the European Pharmacopoeia.

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