Reports turn spotlight on animal influenza

The report of the three STAR-IDAZ workshops to develop research roadmaps for control strategies, diagnostics and vaccine development for influenza is now available (Report of the STAR-IDAZ workshops on influenza research roadmaps development).

High priority research
Research on influenza is a high priority  topic for the STAR-IDAZ IRC, which aims to speed up the delivery of improved control methods for animal influenza outbreaks. Influenza outbreaks are currently having a major impact at global level, causing major economic losses in the poultry sector of affected countries. STAR-IDAZ IRC, a global initiative focused on coordinating international research programs related to animal health, particularly infectious animal diseases including zoonoses, commissioned an influenza research review report in collaboration with United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). The report aims to provide an overview of the research conducted across the major fields of animal influenza in the last six years. The research findings fed a gap analysis workshop held on 14-15 June 2022 at NADC in Iowa, whose results were invaluable for defining the research roadmaps during the latest workshops.

The key objective of the recent three workshops, held online from 30 January to 1 February 2023, were to develop research roadmaps for control strategies, diagnostics, and vaccine development for influenza. The report on the workshops is now available (Report of the STAR-IDAZ workshops on influenza research roadmaps development).
The workshops included over 40 international experts who used generic STAR-IDAZ research roadmaps to draft influenza research roadmaps for epidemiology and disease control strategies, diagnostic tests, and candidate vaccines.
The research roadmaps provide a way of visualizing complex problems and breaking them down into manageable components.
The steps in the roadmaps were completed with a body of scientific knowledge outlined by research questions, scientific and technological challenges/knowledge gaps, possible solution routes, dependencies, and existing knowledge including success and failures.

Roadmaps presented
At the end of each session, the moderators presented the roadmaps, and the participants provided additional inputs. A prioritization of the research needs was conducted using interactive brainstorming tools.
Among the several research needs raised, the development of DIVA vaccines associated with adequate diagnostic tests and surveillance systems, design of vaccination strategies that fit species, age, and production type.
Also of concern are the varied stages of an outbreak, and the need for multi-stakeholder co-creation solutions and control strategies focusing on socio-economic acceptability and feasibility of the solutions were highlighted.
In addition, the need to develop multivalent vaccines and safe and immunogenic adjuvants was stressed. The cost-benefit of mucosal vaccination and the maternal antibody role should be better investigated.
Moreover, the role of environmental, ecological, animal, and human variables in virus transmission patterns should be better explored.

International research coordination
The research roadmaps, after validation by the STAR-IDAZ Scientific Committee, will be published on the STAR-IDAZ website. The main objective of the roadmaps is to support international research coordination and cooperation on influenza, in line with the STAR-IDAZ strategy.
Gregorio Torres, Head of the Science Department at WOAH, said, “It is important that the scientific community share knowledge on animal influenza and have a common vision on current research needs.
“STAR-IDAZ’s participative approach, defining research roadmaps together with influenza’s global leading experts, will surely have an impact on future research achievements that can help control influenza outbreaks.”
The secretariat for STAR-IDAZ would like to thank everyone who participated in the Influenza roadmap development workshops.