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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Epidemiology and surveillance

Epidemiology and surveillance are key elements in understanding and preventing health risks and measuring their consequences. They involve monitoring the evolution of diseases and pathogens, and detecting the emergence of new infectious agents in the country. They are used to precisely assess the probability, causes of expression and health impact of diseases in order to alert the public authorities and actors involved of the presence of a risk as early as possible. ANSES's work in epidemiology and surveillance with regard to animals, plants and food contamination takes a variety of forms..

Increasingly relevant surveillance plans

ANSES provides the government with scientific and technical support for designing surveillance plans and in so doing contributes to the excellence of the controls performed, which every year generate 60,000 samples and 800,000 analysis results. To do this, the Agency draws on its multidisciplinary expertise in order to recommend control and surveillance priorities to the government that take into account risk assessment requirements.

It also specifies the most suitable methods for ensuring the relevance and reliability of the data collected. In 2016, this led ANSES to participate in the Qualiplan project to improve data quality for the surveillance and control plans. The development of a computer application and dedicated coordination helped identify missing values, inconsistencies and incomplete or incorrect data. This "Data Quality" project is also part of a European effort to improve the quality of the data sent to EFSA.
All these data are then analysed by the Agency, enabling it to rapidly detect developments in disease situations.


Managing surveillance schemes

ANSES coordinates epidemiological surveillance networks that mobilise specialists in the field, including laboratories, veterinary practitioners, medical doctors, health and technical organisations, breeders, specialists on particular animal species, etc.
Here are some examples of the networks in which ANSES is involved:

  • 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 the laboratory the observations they make while carrying out their work. The data they provide are the only epidemiological information available on the diseases found in French poultry farms. While not exhaustive, they facilitate understanding of the current situation for the poultry farming sector as a whole, and help monitor the evolution of diseases and detect possible emerging pathogens.
  • RÉSAPATH: this network aims to monitor antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria isolated from animals. It has been in place since 1982. Its activities today encompass surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in most bacteria responsible for animal infections. It is coordinated by the ANSES laboratories in Lyon and Ploufragan-Plouzané. Résapath mobilises 74 laboratories in 99 French départements and collects data on resistance for over 50,000 strains of bacteria each year.
  • SALMONELLA: The purpose of this network is to monitor Salmonella of non-human origin throughout the entire food chain. It complements monitoring of human Salmonella and contributes to the food safety system. Officially created in 1997, this network now comprises nearly 150 private and public veterinary laboratories covering 94 French départements. It is coordinated by ANSES's Laboratory for Food Safety in Maisons-Alfort.
  • VIGIMYC: for several decades, this network has been monitoring the circulation in France of different species of mycoplasma responsible for disease in domestic and wild ruminants, with particular attention paid to the priority mycoplasmoses listed by the OIE. It is made up of around 40 partner laboratories coordinated by the ANSES Lyon Laboratory, which provides a centralised isolate-identification service. Since 2005, an average of 360 isolates from 58 départements have been identified each year. The isolated strains are added to the collection and used for research and development purposes, as well as more recently for assessing their susceptibility to antibiotics.

Provision of scientific and technical support to surveillance

In 2015, the successful collaborative work of nine agencies (DGAL, ANSES, CIRAD, SNGTV, Adilva, Coop de France, GDS France, ONCFS and FNC) in creating and coordinating the Epidemiological Surveillance Platform for Animal Health (ESA Platform), led to the inclusion of three platforms in the French Rural Code: one for animal health, another for plant health and a third for food supply chain safety . In 2018, the ESA platform will be consolidated and the two other platforms will be launched (plant health and food supply chain safety). These platforms aim to strengthen monitoring plans whose effectiveness is essential for rapidly detecting emerging risks and anticipating crises.

As part of its reference mission, ANSES helps support and coordinate these platforms. More than 30 people at ANSES contribute to the activities of the 18 themes of the ESA Platform.


Understanding and preventing animal diseases using analytical epidemiology and modelling

The ANSES research teams are also working to better understand the risk factors for contamination of farms by zoonotic pathogens or pathogens of economic importance and the factors modulating the expression of these often multifactorial diseases, and to model this expression.

This understanding of the risk factors of animal diseases calls on the skills of both epidemiologists and biologists from our laboratories. The detailed characterisation of pathogens using the molecular identification techniques available within our national and European reference laboratories, combined with the expertise of our epidemiologists, furthers our understanding of pathogen circulation, facilitates attempts to model them and also helps in the assessment of possible methods for preventing animal diseases and their zoonotic transmission.