Epidemiological surveillance(1) is one of the key elements in health risk prevention. It entails monitoring the evolution of diseases and pathogens, and detecting the emergence of new infectious agents in the country. The data that it collects are necessary in order to precisely assess the probability of disease outbreaks and their health impact, and for reporting risks to the government and to the players involved as early as possible. ANSES's epidemiological surveillance for animals takes a variety of forms.
(1) Providing surveillance, monitoring and warning, as well as identification of emerging topics is the fourth goal of the Goals and Resources Contract signed by the Agency and the French government in 2007.
Networks for watchfulness
ANSES coordinates epidemiological surveillance networks that mobilise the players involved, generally specialists in the field, including laboratories, veterinary practitioners, medical doctors, health and technical organisations, breeders, specialists on specific animal species, hunters, etc.
Here are some examples of the networks in which ANSES is a stakeholder:
- RNOEA: created in 1987, this national network for epidemiological observation in poultry farming is coordinated by ANSES’s Ploufragan-Plouzané laboratory. Its 55 participants (veterinarians working in laboratories, private practice and employed by companies) send in their professional observations on a voluntary basis. The data they provide are the only epidemiological information available on the diseases found in French poultry farms. While not exhaustive, this facilitates understanding of the current situation for all the poultry farming sectors as a whole, and makes it possible to monitor the evolution of diseases and detect possible emerging pathogens.
- RÉSAPATH: its goal is to monitor antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria isolated from animals. The network has been in existence since 1982 and today has extended its sphere of activity to the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in most bacteria responsible for animal infections. It is coordinated by the ANSES laboratories of Lyon and Ploufragan-Plouzané. In 2010, Résapath mobilised 59 public and private laboratories in 52 French départements and collected data on resistance for over 20,000 strains of bacteria per year.
- SAGIR: founded in 1986 by the French National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS), this network monitors wildlife deaths and attempts to identify their causes. It is based on a network of field observers, mainly hunters and ONCFS workers. The analyses conducted by the departmental testing laboratories on animals found dead or dying are collected in a database managed by ANSES’s Nancy Laboratory for Rabies and Wildlife.
Increasingly relevant monitoring plans
ANSES provides the government with scientific and technical support for designing monitoring plans and in so doing contributes to the excellence of the controls performed by State services. For this, the Agency is supported by multidisciplinary expertise in order to recommend control and surveillance priorities to the government which take into account risk assessment requirements.
It also specifies the most suitable methods for ensuring the relevance and reliability of the data collected. The information is then analysed by the Agency, enabling it to rapidly detect developments in disease situations.
Prioritising animal diseases, a major health challenge
The prioritisation of animal diseases is of interest to many of the stakeholders involved in this topic. The government needs to have a precise picture of the diseases that may develop and the major threats at its borders in order to anticipate and target its initiatives, especially in the current tight budgetary climate. The authorities that fund research need this information in order to target the most relevant research activities for financing.
A multitude of methods for prioritising have been developed, which makes it difficult to obtain a uniform approach to these issues. In order to achieve this, ANSES has issued a formal internal request for the assessment and comparison of the existing prioritisation methods as well as their application to the risk of introducing an exotic disease into France. The Agency is also working on epidemiological surveillance, early detection of these diseases, and the principles on which their control is based.