$735,000 grant to help fund Campylobacter research

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), together with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) have been awarded $735,000 to help further research into Campylobacter, a leading cause of foodborne illness among New Zealanders.
calendar icon 11 April 2007
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The two organisations will work together to administer research, which will enable scientists to investigate how the bacteria behaves in the food chain and the environment. The grant, from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, will be made available over three years.

"Securing the funding is a significant achievement for all involved. It will allow us to examine intervention strategies that will combat the growing number of reported cases of campylobacteriosis in New Zealand," says NZFSA Risk Analyst Peter van der Logt.

Sue Powell, MfE General Manager says: "The work will help us better understand the links between human health and the environment. For example, we will look at how Campylobacter moves from animal waste on farms into human food and water supplies and how best to prevent this."

Poultry is recognised as a likely primary pathway and is believed to be responsible for about half New Zealand’s reported cases of campylobacteriosis. Animal contact and person-to-person transmission also play a significant role.

Campylobacteriosis accounts for about 60% of New Zealand’s reported notifiable diseases. Latest figures show there were 13,839 notified cases in 2005. However, unreported cases mean the number of people that become ill as a result of the disease is likely to be much higher. Recent estimates put the annual cost to the economy at $75 million a year.

NZFSA’s Science Manager, Andrew Pavitt, says: “Campylobacteriosis is a very complex disease and uncertainty about the relative contribution of the various transmission pathways has prevented a comprehensive risk-management programme from being developed. This project provides an excellent opportunity to take a holistic approach to the issue.

"This is vital if we are to develop effective environmental and public health management strategies and fits in with NZFSA’s whole-of-food-chain approach to fighting the disease, as outlined in its Campylobacter Strategy 2006-2009."

"We hope this project will lead to an improved understanding of the movement of Campylobacter in the environment. This information can be used by farmers and environmental managers to reduce the passage of this bacteria into our waterways," says Sue Powell.

"This project aligns closely with the outcomes sought in the Sustainable Water Programme of Action, and will be directly relevant to the proposed national environmental standard for sources of human drinking water."

The work will be carried out by prominent researchers from Massey University, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. The project will be overseen by NZFSA and MfE as well as an advisory group of Government representatives.

It is likely that approaches developed within this project will also apply to other zoonotic diseases (those transmitted between animals and humans). Bringing all of these issues together will:

  • reduce exposure within the food chain

  • Improve livestock farming practices

  • provide better targeted information on health and food risks.

Results will be posted in scientific publications, relayed at conferences and meetings through workshops, a dedicated website (www.zoonosesresearch.org.nz) and NZFSA websites, publications and media releases.

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