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Avian Influenza Research
Bird Flu in Thailand: Studies at Human-Animal Interface
Avian influenza (AI) has assumed increasing importance, not merely in causing devastation in both wild birds and farmed poultry, but also because the H5N1 subtype has been known to infect humans. Mahidol University, led by Prof. Pilaipan Puthavathana as principal investigator, has been funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct integrative research on “Avian Influenza Surveillance in Thailand- Studies at Human-Animal Interface”. The project aims to study AI among migratory birds and disease transmission from animals to animals, animals to humans, and from humans to humans. The work involves collaboration not only between faculties within Mahidol University, but also with the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, and Westat Research Company, USA.
      This project covers many areas of expertise and may be divided into 3 main sub-projects. The first sub-project, led by Dr. Parntep Ratanakorn, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Mahidol University focuses on studying the epidemiology and transmission of AI from migratory birds to domestic animals, such as poultry, cats and dogs. The second project, led by Dr. Kumnuan Ungchusak, Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, Department of Communicable Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, will study the transmission of AI and causative agents of severe pneumonia in humans in an AI epidemic area. The third sub-project, led by Dr. Prasert Auewarakul, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University will study AI the evolution of the virus from a causative agent of the naturally occurring diseases in animals to a possible pandemic form in humans.
      The project was started in February 2007 with a study of migratory birds in Amphoe Bang Lane, Nakhon Pathom province and in the area
near Bung Borapetch in Nakhon Sawan province. To study the flyways,
Dr. Adrian H Farmer, a geologist from Fort Collins Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, was invited to supervise a satellite-telemetry study. This will show the relation of the migratory flyways and the AI epidemics. It is the first time in the world that the global positioning system technology has been applied to study AI spread through migratory birds. Preliminary data from 111 migratory birds (as of March 26, 2007) showed that there was no Avian Influenza virus infection in these birds. After 1 month of the Argos satellite monitoring, four tagged birds are still in Thailand traveling in the average distance of 0.5-20 kilometers per day. The flyways of these birds cover the areas in Nakorn Pathom, Nonthaburi,

Ratchaburi, and Kanchanaburi. Information to be obtained in the future will help in the epidemiological investigation of Avian Influenza in Thailand.
For further information, contact: siput@mahidol.ac.th


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