The European Commission has decided to allocate an additional 12 million euro from the EU's Research Framework Programme to reinforce Europe's capacity for tackling pathogens like the virulent Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria that recently infected close to 4,000 people in Europe and killed 46. The project will also try to identify possible ways of eradicating diseases and draw lessons that may help prevent threats in the future.
This autumn, a cross-border consortium called ANTIGONE (ANTIcipating the Global Onset of Novel Epidemics) is planned to start investigating. Its research is aimed at getting as full a scientific picture as possible of the new E. coli strain – to which approximately 2.1 million euro will be specifically dedicated - and of a range of other virulent pathogens that could pose a threat to human health. By better understanding these pathogens, scientists can go on to develop ways to tackle them - the research will focus on ways to prevent future epidemics and deal with new outbreaks.Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "Our policy is to focus EU research and innovation funding on the things that matter most to Europeans and of course health is right at the top of that list. So I am very pleased that we have been able to allocate this additional funding to reinforce further Europe's capacity to identify and respond to epidemic outbreaks".
ANTIGONE is currently scheduled to involve 14 partners from seven countries. The project will gather specific expertise on a broad range of viruses and bacteria, including Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). ANTIGONE will build the knowledge and gather the resources to help identify, study, prevent and counteract unexpected new epidemic threats. In particular, the project aims to identify the factors that make viral and bacterial pathogens from animals prone to cross the species barrier and be transmitted among people. When new and unknown diseases emerge, ANTIGONE will be able to perform and coordinate analysis of the bacteria or viruses involved and of the epidemiology of the disease concerned and the way it is transmitted.