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Research activities of the Nancy Laboratory for Rabies and Wildlife

In terms of research, the Nancy Laboratory for Rabies and Wildlife studies pathogens, in particular zoonotic ones, circulating in wildlife. Its research is conducted according to an approach that focuses on certain pathogens (Lyssavirus, Echinococcus, Mycobacterium bovis, tick-borne pathogens, coronavirus, orthohantavirus) and/or certain animal species (wild carnivores, domestic species, rodents and bats) and according to three strands: support for surveillance, eco-epidemiology, and prevention and control. These strands feed into each other, and some projects may be at the intersection of several strands.

The surveillance support activities concern certain pathogens studied under national and international schemes. Methods for the direct and indirect diagnosis and molecular characterisation of pathogens need to be developed, in order to detect them and monitor their circulation. These developments are also reinvested in research on epidemiology, for monitoring the effectiveness of control methods and harmonising these methods within the networks of laboratories approved for the diagnosis of these pathogens.

Research on understanding the eco-epidemiology of pathogens concerns descriptive and analytical epidemiology work, including molecular studies. These aim to better describe the spatio-temporal distribution of pathogens and the factors influencing transmission processes or distribution. The goal of this strand is to understand the epidemiological cycles of the studied pathogens, and identify the host species and their role in the ecosystems in question. This approach includes the study of the hosts' ecology, including their population dynamics and distribution. Gaining a better understanding also requires experimental approaches on animals, with studies on the interspecies barrier, diffusion within a host, and excretion and transmission between individuals of the studied pathogens. Ultimately, this work should help better estimate the health risk associated with the studied pathogens and define the most relevant surveillance and control methods.

Lastly, the work devoted to prevention and control measures focuses on humans and animals. It seeks to prevent or limit the exposure of humans or domestic animals to the studied pathogens and reduce transmission. Without excluding other approaches (population management, treatments, etc.), activities mainly focus on monitoring the efficacy of existing vaccines and their protective effects against similar pathogens (cross-protection), and developing and/or assessing potential vaccine candidates and their deployment methods.

Research projects

  • SEEpiAS Unit
    • MEME (2020-2022)

Multi-centre study on Echinococcus multilocularis and Echinococcus granulosus s.l. in Europe: development and harmonisation of diagnostic methods in the food chain

Funding: European Joint Programme on One Health

The project aims to fill the research gaps highlighted by international agencies for the detection and control of the parasitic worms Echinococcus multilocularis (Em) and Echinococcus granulosus s.l. (Eg). It focuses on the standardisation, harmonisation and validation of existing methods, as well as on the development and comparative assessment of innovative molecular tools. Production of epidemiological data on the presence of these parasites' eggs is focused on vegetables for human consumption, as well as on dogs' faeces, in selected endemic countries. By harmonising procedures and improving detection, the project will help define strategies for controlling these parasites.

Find out more about the project

  • BARALCA (2019-2023)

Research and analysis of the presence of Baylisascaris procyonis and different pathogens in raccoons in France

Funding: ANSES, French Biodiversity Agency (OFB), University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Research and Study Group for Environmental Management (GREGE) and the National Veterinary School of Toulouse

B. procyonis is a nematode whose definitive host is the raccoon. The two were introduced into Europe together. The increase in raccoon populations in Europe, particularly in France, raises questions about the zoonotic risk associated with the presence of this parasite, which has already been identified in neighbouring countries, mainly Germany and Luxembourg. A study is being carried out on the presence of the parasite in France within the three main population clusters of raccoons established in France: North-East (from Marne to Alsace), Massif Central, Gironde and neighbouring départements. Genotyping of the identified nematodes will be carried out to characterise the geographical origin and transmission of this parasite, if it is found in the study areas in France. Various other pathogens of interest to public and veterinary health will also be investigated.

  • TIQOJARDIN (2021-2023)

Assessment of the risk associated with ticks in private gardens in Lorraine

Funding: Territoires d'innovation de grande ambition initiative: Preventing and limiting the risks associated with human/forest/plant/animal interactions.

This project seeks to characterise the acarological risk (risk of infected tick bites) in urban and suburban private gardens. Two components will be considered, the "hazard" (abundance of infected ticks) and "human exposure". It will determine the environmental (connectivity of environments, biodiversity of hosts, land use practices, etc.) and social (use of gardens, perception of risk) variables that can be used as levers to reduce this risk.

  • Lyssavirus Unit
    • MUSECoV and COVRIN (2021-2023)

Multi-scale eco-evolution of Coronaviruses: from surveillance toward emergence prediction
One Health research integration on SARS-CoV-2 emergence, risk assessment and preparedness

Funding: French National Research Agency (ANR) and the European Joint Programme (EJP) on One Health

These projects have two main objectives:

  • To identify the drivers for the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general.
  • To generate data for risk assessment of SARS-CoV-2 in animals and the environment.

More specifically, the laboratory will develop serological tools for detecting SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses in wildlife. It will isolate the coronaviruses found, by testing different cell types, to study the cell receptors involved in entry of the different coronaviruses. Lastly, it will contribute to a Europe-wide molecular epidemiology study on selected wildlife species, including hedgehogs, birds, bats and otters.

Find out more about the MUSECoV and COVRIN projects. 

  • EPI VO (2021-2022)

Investigation on the factors that may be affecting the results of oral rabies vaccination (ORV) monitoring and their interpretation.

Funding: European Union, in the framework of the EURL for rabies

Oral rabies vaccination programmes for foxes in the European Union have been in operation for several decades. Despite compliance with the guidelines currently in place, the percentage of vaccinated foxes appears to be steadily decreasing, while the percentage of vaccine baits taken continues to rise year after year. It is not uncommon to observe vaccination levels in fox populations well below the recommended 70% level, with rates around 30-40%. The objective is to study retrospectively the hypotheses and possible explanations for this decline, on the basis of field data through an epidemiological analysis.