Animal botulism: innovative tools for the diagnosis, prevention, control and epidemiological investigation
Animal botulism is a re-emerging problem worldwide that concerns several species (cattle, mink, horses and birds) and both livestock production and wildlife. This leads to huge economical losses in the animal industry because of high mortality rates. It also presents a risk for transmission to other species, including humans. Despite being reported for a long time, many aspects of the disease have been neglected up to now, in particular approaches for diagnosis and surveillance of botulism have to be improved and harmonized and control and prevention measures have to be developed. This project aims first at developing an alternative approach to the mouse bioassay, which today is still the gold standard for botulism diagnosis because of the lack of validated in vitro assay. An animal replacement method based on mass spectrometry (Endopep-MS) will be improved and standardized to lead to a sensitive and rapid test for laboratory diagnosis. This project will also explore the epidemiological aspects of animal botulism focusing on potential risk factors associated with the outbreaks for better managing animal botulism surveillance systems. As a useful tool intended for molecular epidemiology and for the assessment of genetic diversity of C. botulinum group III organisms, Multiple Locus of Variable tandem repeat Analysis and Multilocus Sequence Typing protocols will be developed and whole genome sequencing will be performed. In addition, the sequence variability of botulinum neurotoxins will be determined using mass spectrometry. Usefulness of this approach for epidemiological applications will be evaluated.
Finally, we will focus on the development of prevention and control strategies by testing three strategies: vaccination, use of lactic acid bacteria as antagonist of C. botulinum group III organism growth and toxinogenesis and set up consolidated guidelines for sampling and laboratory testing in botulism outbreaks.
This collaborative 36-month project involves 8 research groups from EU with complementary expertise in C. botulinum, botulinum neurotoxins, mass spectrometry, veterinary diagnostics, genomic studies,
epidemiology, and animal experiments. This project will allow a prompt diagnosis of animal botulism, will make available molecular tools which are essential to react early in case of major outbreaks, will clarify essential epidemiological aspects of botulism in poultry and bovine production in Europe, and finally will propose countermeasures.