Scientists at the famed Pirbright biological research labs are set to collaborate with some of the UK’s top avian influenza experts in a new effort to tackle avian influenza.

This research consortium has received £1.5 million from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council and Defra, and will be responsible for developing new strategies to tackle future bird flu outbreaks.

As the UK is in the migratory flight path for wild birds flying across northern Europe, it is expected that outbreaks of the disease will occur each year – but this year has seen some of the largest outbreaks the UK has ever experienced, with a huge impact on poultry health and the economy.

It is hoped that through collaboration and knowledge exchange, the new consortium will help to find strategies to control the spread of disease, and protect the UK poultry industry and rural economy.

The researchers key aims are:

  • Monitoring current flu virus strains;
  • Understanding the spread of disease in different bird populations;
  • Developing models to predict how the avian influenza virus may spread;
  • Informing strategies to decrease risk of disease and transmission to people.

Head of Pirbright’s Avian Influenza Virus group, Professor Munir Iqbal, said: “The expertise of Pirbright’s researchers will help to achieve the key aims of this consortium and as an Institute we are extremely proud to be part of this. Avian influenza is an economically important virus that has devastating effects on the poultry industry, therefore improved understanding of the virus will give us more insight into how it spreads and inform our control strategies to prevent it from spreading to people and other animals.”