New European project to strengthen protection measures against emerging health threats
A consortium of 19 European institutions, including the UAB, has launched the IDAlert project with the objective of improving the response capacity of Europe to pathogens capable of causing global epidemics, brought on by climate change. The project includes a multidisciplinary panel of experts in zoonosis, infectious disease epidemiology, social sciences, artificial intelligence, the environment, economy, and environmental and climate sciences.
As the temperatures on the planet rise due to climate change, outbreaks of zoonotic diseases (which spread from animals to humans) also increase and spread to new parts of the world, particularly to Europe. Warmer temperatures, more variable rainfall and the loss of biodiversity influence the survival and spread of zoonotic pathogens, and the reproduction and geographic location of their vectors, such as mosquitos and ticks.
The recent and not so recent health crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown that there is a need to be prepared to provide more solid and inclusive responses to pathogens capable of producing epidemics across the European Union and also globally. The IDAlert project aims to tackle this challenge by developing a range of decision-support tools and systems to enable decision-makers to act on time with improved responses.
“The project has chosen an innovative co-creation, participatory, and citizen science approach, involving stakeholders from the start to integrate needs and address gaps, and a One Health perspective, recognising the close connection between humans, animals, and the environment, and the increase in infectious diseases,” says Joacim Röcklov, IDAlert Project Coordinator, Umeå University (Sweden).
IDAlert will develop new climate and health indicators (i.e. for viruses circulating among wild birds and mosquitoes such as the West Nile Virus) and monitoring mechanisms, incorporate an inequality lens, and inform policy development across sectors, setting a new standard in support of policy and decision-making.
"The UAB Department of Genetics and Microbiology will participate by contributing to the development of advanced tools to establish the distribution of climate-related pathogen organisms and thus be able to foresee the emergence of new infectious outbreaks", explains lead researcher of the project at the UAB Jaime Martínez-Urtaza.
Surveillance, early warning, and response systems will also be developed and made accessible through a user interface that allows for easy visualisation and exploration of data and results, making it simpler to undertake effective measures and contain outbreaks.
IDAlert will assess the costs, effectiveness, benefits and policy viability of adaptation measures and strategies to improve the climate resilience of health systems in Europe. Finally, the project will look at socio-economic aspects, investigating the emergence, transmission, and spread of zoonotic pathogens and consequences of climate and health policies on different socio-demographic, high-risk, and hard-to-reach groups, and how policy can help reduce these impacts.
The validity of the tools and methods developed in the project will be demonstrated in key hotspots in Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, and Bangladesh, which are experiencing rapid urban transformation and climate-induced disease threats. The project will maximise its reach and build on its ties with the European Climate and Health Observatory, the European Climate Adaptation Platform Climate-ADAPT, and the Lancet Countdown in Europe to guarantee long-term sustainability, policy impact and uptake.
Through its activities and objectives, IDAlert will ultimately contribute to more robust climate policies, guide authorities in public health, veterinary and environmental services, and safeguard the populations in Europe from the transmission and emergence of infectious pathogens due to climate change.
IDAlert (Infectious Disease decision-support tools and Alert systems to build climate Resilience to emerging health Threats), which officially began on 1 June 2022, is a € 9.18 million project and has a duration of five years. The project is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe programme with Grant Agreement number 101057554.
The consortium involves 19 organisations from Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, UK, and Bangladesh, with world leading experts in a wide range of disciplines including zoonoses, infectious disease epidemiology, social sciences, artificial intelligence, environmental economics, and environmental and climate sciences.
For more information please visit:
Link to the IDAlert project website