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Current Projects

Our members are involved in the following research projects

1) One Health One Caribbean One Love: This project is implemented by the University of the West Indies and project partners include IICA, PAHO/WHO, the FAO, CIRAD and the Ministries of Agriculture of Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada. Funding for the project is through the European Union (EU) from the ACP Science and Technology Programme (S&T II), and is being supported by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund – Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Project being executed by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). The main objectives are:

  • To promote and entrench a “One Health” approach to zoonotic and food borne disease surveillance, diagnosis and response within the Caribbean region.
  • To strengthen the ability of Caribbean countries to recognise, diagnose and respond to animal / zoonotic diseases

Main activities of the project:

  • Creation of a Caribbean network of “One Health Leaders” comprised of medical, veterinary and environmental officials.
  • Building capacity in One Health approaches and leadership across the Caribbean region.
  • Establishment of national One Health working groups in 12 Caribbean countries.
  • Development and publication of a regional One Health strategic plan with national sub-plans
  • Information and communication on One Health
  • Exchange of information and best practices with other global One Health Networks
  • Introduction of new laboratory techniques and technologies to veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the Caribbean region
  • Promotion of quality assurance (QA), biosafety and inter-laboratory comparison tests to enable international accreditation of Caribbean veterinary diagnostic labs.
  • Strengthening the ability of field veterinarians, farmers and livestock producers (first responders) across the Caribbean region to recognize and respond to key endemic, exotic and zoonotic diseases.

For more information on the project please visit our website at: www.onehealthcaribbean.org

2) Protective B-cell responses in Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection. CHIKV has created a major public health impact in the Americas. CHIKV causes extensive human and economic damage, primarily due to acute fever and arthralgia and post-viral chronic joint pain/arthritis. Currently no licensed therapeutic treatments or vaccines exist for CHIKV. We are working with researchers at Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco to address the important public health threat posed by CHIKV by identifying lead candidate monoclonal antibodies for development into treatments capable of being used both prophylactically and therapeutically.

3) Zika virus (ZIKV) prevalence and outcomes. ZIKV, a mosquito-borne flavivirus, has recently emerged in the Americas. About 20% of infections result in Zika fever (a mild, self-limiting febrile illness). Serious and fatal outcomes are rarely observed but the virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus causing neurological complications and birth defects. This study aims to (i) characterise the ZIKV in circulation in Trinidad & Tobago, (ii) estimate ZIKV seroprevalence in pregnant women and in selected populations, and (iii) investigate adverse pregnancy outcomes in order to estimate risk and identify risk factors.

4) Leptospirosis in Trinidad and Tobago: Epidemiology and development of an effective vaccine for use in dogs. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease with a worldwide distribution caused by pathogenic serovars of the genus Leptospira. In recent years in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as in other countries in the Caribbean region, there has been an increase in the incidence of human leptospirosis and fatalities causing anxiety in the various populations. There are also reports from field veterinarians in Trinidad and Tobago of observed increase in clinical leptospirosis in properly vaccinated dogs suggesting that the vaccines used in the country may have doubtful efficacy. These reports indicate that these vaccines may not contain the serovars of Leptospira responsible for canine leptospirosis in the country. The investigation in human and animal (dogs, livestock and wildlife) populations in the country is designed to identify important risk factors for exposure, to determine the prevalence and epidemiology of leptospirosis, to identify the predominant serovar(s) involved in subclinical and clinical leptospirosis, to establish temporal and spatial distribution of cases and serovars using geographical information system (GIS), to characterize the Leptospira isolates using molecular methods, to determine their virulence, pathogenicity and resistance to antimicrobial agents, and finally to develop an effective vaccine for use in dogs in the country.

5) Identification of the high-impact avian viruses within Trinidad and Tobago. There is currently limited information on the circulation of avian respiratory viruses within Trinidad and Tobago (TTO). This study will involve conducting a broad based surveillance of avian populations (including poultry and wild birds), for the presence of various potentially high-impact viruses of significance. Viruses of interest include Avian Influenza virus, Newcastle disease virus, Infectious bronchitis virus, Avian pneumovirus, Infectious laryngotracheitis virus, Egg drop syndrome virus, Infectious bursal disease virus and Inclusion body hepatitis virus. Viruses of poultry naturally pose a significant veterinary and public health threat one which remains unknown within TTO. Through appropriate sampling and laboratory testing (antibody and antigen) presence of the selected viruses will be investigated, identified and characterized. The study will lead to an improved understanding of the risks posed by these viruses to the wildlife, livestock and human health sectors within T&T and will enable the implementation of improved control and prevention measures.

6) Characterisation of emerging viruses and protective immune responses against them in humans. Emerging viruses are have become increasingly more common in recent decades and this trend is expected to continue. Although there are viruses that appear to be on the threshold of emergence into new geographic regions, it is difficult to predict when and where each emergence will occur, and previously unknown viruses of animals that adapt to and emerge into human populations are impossible to predict. With each newly arrived virus there is need to rapidly characterise the virus and develop specific tests, vaccines or therapeutics. In particular sensitive and specific diagnostics tests are required since most viral infections initially present as acute undifferentiated fevers that are clinically indistinguishable, and a significant proportion may be asymptomatic. This requires knowledge of each virus’ genetic structure and an understanding of the human immune response to it. This study aims to detect and characterise emerging viruses associated with acute undifferentiated fevers in Trinidad and to characterise immune responses against them with a view to developing novel diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines. Our current work, in collaboration with researchers at Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco, focuses on Chikungunya virus and Zika virus.

7) Comparative molecular genetic and phylogeographic analysis of Trinidad and mainland bat populations and their viruses. Bats are vectors and reservoirs for emerging zoonotic pathogens (e.g. Rabies, Ebola, Hendra) and several newly discovered viruses. We previously reported evidence of rabies importation into Trinidad from mainland South America and suggested this occurs via bats flying in from the mainland. We are using a molecular approach to investigate vampire bat movement patterns between Trinidad and the mainland and their role in dissemination of rabies and other viruses.

8) Identification of Culicoides midge species in Trinidad and surrounding regions, and determination of their spatiotemporal distribution and impact as vectors of arboviruses in both livestock and humans.

9) Evolution, population dynamics and phylogeography of dengue viruses in the Americas. Dengue is the most important arboviral disease in humans and a major public health problem in the Americas. The aim of this project is to use phylogenetic and computational biology tools to infer the population genetic and spatiotemporal transmission histories of DENV genotypes within the Americas from genomic sequence data, and to investigate factors that influence the rate and intensity of DENV transmission within the region.

10) Viral diversity in Trinidad and Tobago bats. In recent decades there has been an upsurge in so-called “emerging infectious diseases”. The majority is caused by viruses that have their origins in animal populations of which dengue virus, West Nile virus, severe acute respiratory sydrome (SARS) coronavirus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and avian influenza are well-known and important examples. Bats are of particular interest as reservoirs for potentially emergent pathogens because their abundance, wide distribution and mobility confer a greater risk of zoonotic transmission than other animals. They have long been known as the natural hosts for rabies virus and were more recently identified as the reservoirs for emerging viruses such as Ebola, Hendra and Nipah virus. Recent data also suggests that the progenitor of the SARS coronavirus, and all other coronaviruses in other animal hosts originated in bats. The primary aim of our study is to characterise viral diversity in Trinidad & Tobago bats and to investigate the origins, evolution and dispersal of selected viruses.

11) Seroprevalence of economically important viral pathogens in swine populations of Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. The main objectives of this study are (i) to evaluate the seroprevalence of Swine Influenza virus (SwIV), Porcine Parvovirus (PPV), Porcine Circovirus Type 2 (PCV-2), Transmissible Gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSV), Porcine Respiratory Coronavirus (PRCV) and Classical Swine Fever Virus (CSFV) in small and large scale pig farms in Trinidad and Tobago, and (ii) to identify the strains of Swine Influenza virus (SwIV) circulating in the swine populations in these farms.

12) Molecular analysis of salmonella enterica strains carried by poultry entering the food chain in Trinidad. Risks of salmonellosis exist along the farm-to-fork production chain, posing a continuous threat to human health at all levels. To assess whether this threat is a consequence of antimicrobial-induced evolution resulting in new and more virulent strains in food-producing animals, the aims of the study are to identify the virulence and resistance profile and the genetic relatedness between the strains isolated from poultry of Trinidad

13) Epidemiology and risk factors for bloodstream infection at San Fernando General Hospital from 2010 to 2015.

14) Predictors of positive CSF cultures in patients with suspected meningitis at Port-of-Spain General Hospital and San Fernando General Hospital from 2010 to 2015.

15) Inpatient antibiotic usage at public hospitals in Trinidad and Tobago from 2010 to 2015.

16) Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus carrier rates among health care professionals in a non-outbreak setting at San Fernando General Hospital – Single center cross-sectional study.

 

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