Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Literature review on the main existing structures and systematic/academic initiatives for surveillance in the EU for zoonoses in the environment and the methods for surveillance of pathogens in the environment

A small proportion of disease surveillance programs target environment compartment, and in the EU these are restricted to few countries. The present report is composed of two literature reviews (i) on the main existing  structures  and  systematic/academic  initiatives  for  surveillance  in  the  EU  for  zoonoses  in  the  environment,  and  (ii)  on  the  methods  for  pathogen  surveillance  in  the  environment.  Concerning  (i),  it  is  noteworthy that the most frequently reported objective was to evaluate control and eradication strategies and  following  trends  of  zoonosis.  However,  detecting  new  pathogens  or  unusual  epidemiological  events  were scarcely reported as objectives, as well as demonstrating freedom from a particular pathogen, despite the big potential that environmental sampling and testing techniques have recently demonstrated for these purposes. Few of the pathogens prioritised by EFSA were represented in this literature review, indicating the potential of environmental techniques to be applied to a larger extent to detect relevant transboundary and (re)emergent zoonoses. The preferred environmental sample was water, followed by biological material (included faecal material) and vectors (mosquitoes). To a much lesser extent, soil, and other matrices were used.  Regarding  (ii)  the  pathogen  detection  and  identification  methods  were  divided  into:  conventional  (culture   and   biochemistry-based,   and   immunology-based);   molecular   methods   (nucleic   acid-based   methods); biosensor-based (new) and others. A large percentage of available assays for the detection and surveillance of pathogens in the environment focuses on hazards that are not among those pre-selected by EFSA.  Therefore,  there  is  a  need  for  development  of  new,  untested,  methods  for  surveillance  of  listed  pathogens of higher epidemiological importance. Less disturbed areas, natural and wild environments are less covered by environmental sampling techniques than urban and farm environments and should therefore receive  higher  attention  since  they  may  hold  undiscovered  and  potentially  epidemiologically  significant  hazards and hosts. In general, molecular methods, namely the nucleic-acid based methods, are the ones more commonly and widely used for pathogen detection in environmental samples, and can be developed for virtually any organism, given a sufficient effort to identify specific DNA/RNA sequences unique to the target  organism.  The  usefulness  and  appropriateness  of  different  environmental  matrices  for  detecting  specific pathogens or for specific purposes are discussed and recommendations are provided.

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