• Project name: Biology and control of vector-borne infections in Europe – EDENext
  • Implementation period: 2011-2015
  • Total budget: 12,000,000 Euro, DDNI budget, 148,000 Euro
  • Financing program: 7TH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (FP7)- FP7-HEALTH-2010-single-stage – EU RESEARCH FUNDING 2007-2013
  • Parteners/Leader: project leader, CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement) – Montpellier – France and other 45 parteners from 22 countries and. Sub-project Leader (where Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development was involved): Pasteur Institute – Paris and sub-project partners from Romania, Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Albania.

Project description: EDENext (Biology and control of vector-borne infections in Europe) project developed after the call of proposal launched by the European Commision in the 7th Framework Programme – HEALTH-2010-single-stage programme. The project proposed to investigate the biological, ecological and epidemiological components of vector borne diseases introduction, emergence and spread, and, using the knowledge acquired, propose new tools for controlling them. As vectors were not only included arthropods but also rodents and insectivores which harbour a wide range of pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and parasites), some of them being infective to humans without the intervention of arthropod vectors (e.g., Hantaviruses, Bunyaviridae). Therefore were selected for study rodents and insectivores as well as the main arthropod vector groups of human and animal diseases in Europe: hard ticks (Acari, Ixodidae), mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicicae), sand flies (Diptera, Psychodidae), and biting midges (Diptera, Ceratopogonidae). Each constituted “vertical” group structuring EDENext research activities. With such a vertical structure, the EDENext consortium provided expertise and useful information regarding prevention of human or animal infection, control measures for vector populations, and implementation of vector surveillance networks, for any new emerging, VBD transmitted by vector / rodent / insectivore species belonging to these groups. Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development was involved in the subproject Emergence and Spread MBD (Mosquito borne diseases). Main objectives of the Emergence and Spread MBD subproject: Assess whether winter survival of WNV-infected adult mosquitoes is significant in the epizootic cycle; seek evidence of vertical transmission during the mosquito breeding season; assess whether oral and faecal-oral infection in birds, mammals, amphibians and other fauna is a significant component of the epizootic cycle; intercept migrant passerines on their last stop before arriving on the European continent to establish seroprevalence and to screen for virus; monitor seasonal profile and host preference of reed-bed mosquitoes; assess degree of synchrony between the advancement of spring broods of mosquitoes and the arrival of migrant passerines; determine whether ectoparasites are infected in experimentally infected chickens; monitor viraemia and viral shedding in experimentally infected frogs and assess whether infections are chronic; sequence selected WNV isolates; study bionomics of Aedes albopictus and japonicus in Italy, Albania and Switzerland; develop temperature/humidity profiles of “typical” resting sites of Ae. albopictus, simulate a selection of these in an environmental cabinet and monitor rate of viral replication of Chikungunya and Dengue in Ae. albopictus and Ae. japonicus; determine light regime that triggers winter diapause and test insects hatching from diapausing eggs for vertical transmission. Throughout the EDENext period (2011-2014), the DDNI team collected 4,952 samples from 1,573 birds belonging to 31 species. Our efforts were focused on target groups, so most samples were collected from them: 4,544 samples (crows – 992 samples, sparrows – 2,452 samples, Acrocephalus warblers – 1,110 samples). Biological material was tested in Vienna (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine – Institute of Virology) and another part was sent for further testing at Brno (Institute of Vertebrate Zoology – Brno). During the project (2011-2015) we have recorded several bird species the first time in Romania found with antibodies against West Nile virus. For the first time in Romania we have investigated the direct route (non-vector) of transmission of West Nile virus. Although the results were negative, this suggests the possibility that these direct routes described above to exist in nature, but have no regular character similar to West Nile virus irregular recrudescence. We found by PCR for the first time in Europe a West Nile virus positive ectoparasite from a seropositive Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos). Ectoparasites can infect hosts but not retransmit virus to their host (host already has antibodies). Instead the ectoparasites can infect the next host in the next stage (experimental shown) which means that infected ticks on migrating birds may carry (new) pathogens to other areas much more.

Sampling areas (2011-2014) for biological material from wild birds (West Nile virus serological survey) in Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and surroundings ((north to south, by red: Maliuc – Mila 26, Sălcioara and Grindul Lupilor; by yellow, Tulcea, Murighiol, Iazurile, Agighiol, Satu Nou, Enisala, Babadag, Vişina şi Ceamurlia)
Sampling sera samples from a Hooded Crow (Corvus c. cornix), Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Helgoland trap for Crow capturing, Iazurile (Tulcea county, 2012)
    • Project name: Complex epidemiological modelling of WNV-borne infections by interdisciplinary correlation using imagistic data acquired by sensor systems and drones – RPAS-WN
    • Implementation period: 2014-2017
    • DDNI budget: 241.984 lei
    • Financing program: ANCSI – PN II – Joint Applied Research Projects – PN-II-PT-PCCA-2013-4 – Romanian Autorithy for Scientific research
    • Parteners/Leader: project leader: Cantauzino Institute – Bucharest, Romania. Parteners: Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development –Tulcea, Romania, SC Aerocontrol UAV SRL Bucharest, Romania and “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History, Bucharest, Romania.

Project description: The project proposes an integrated system of objectives and activities aimed to develop a realistic model of West Nile Virus circulation, based on those factors that contribute to its maintenance and amplification and determine the transfer of the virus to the human population during epidemics. The components of the integrated system of objectives:

    1. Obtaining an experimental imagistic model of the sites of epidemiological interest from the study areas. Areas and sites representative in terms of vertebrates and culicid species diversity and of WNV circulation will be established for the two study areas (Bucharest and the Danube Delta). The preliminary model will be achieved by integrating the satellite images of the areas and of the descriptive data (zoological, entomological, epidemiological and geographical) in a geographic information system (GIS).
    2. Determining the seasonal feeding pattern behavior of the vectors in relation to the relative abundance and the diversity of the vertebrate hosts and the influence of this behavior in maintaining and increasing West Nile Virus circulation. The spatial distribution and the seasonal dynamics of culicid species and of vertebrate species (especially birds and mammals) will be tracked in the study areas and the freshly blood-fed culicids will be captured in order to determine the host (the blood source). This will enable to capture the existence of a possible ‘shift’ in the seasonal feeding behavior of the vectors and its determinant factors.
    3. Quantifying the seasonal intensity of West Nile Virus circulation in the study areas in conjunction with the dynamics of the environment. The estimation of the intensity of viral circulation will be done by assessing the seroconversion rate in control batches of sentinel birds that will be tested twice a month in order to detect the presence of anti-West Nile IgM and IgG antibodies and by calculating the Minimum Infection Rate (RMI) of the captured culicids. The values of the seroconversion in batches of sentinel birds and the MIR will be analyzed together, establishing a matrix algorithm of quantification of the intensity of the seasonal viral circulation in the different sites of the investigated areas.
    4. Determining the manner and the degree of influence of environmental factors on vector-host interactions. The climatic factors (temperature, relative humidity, rainfall) will be monitored with portable weather stations, two consecutive seasons, to assess their influence not only on the dynamics of the vectors – hosts interactions but also on the viral circulation.
    5. Identifying the factors or the combination of factors with a determining role in amplifying the viral circulation by computerized analysis of the obtained data.The comparative analysis of the data collected from those sites where the viral circulation will be highlighted and quantified will lead to the identification of the common parameters of these areas making possible the identification of the factors or the combination of factors which contribute to the maintenance and the amplification of the viral circulation in natural and anthropogenic ecosystems.
    6. Functional modelling of the West Nile Virus circulation and of the factors involved in its maintenance and amplification in the investigated areas.

    Scientific and technical challenges of the project are represented by: The acquisition of the georeferenced imagistic data of the study area; The identification of the vertebrate species on aerial images obtained in visible spectrum; The development of a shape recognition pattern, used to identify the vertebrate species on aerial thermal images; The tessellation of the altitudinal georeferenced images in order to achieve overall layers consistent with GIS analysis; The development of quantification algorithms of the intensity of viral circulation. Although the use of drones for civilian purposes has begun to grow, obtaining imagistic georeferenced data to assess epidemiological mechanisms is a completely new approach. The results of this project obtained by using these innovative technologies will bring forth more knowledge through an overall understanding of the mechanisms which contribute to the outbreak of WNV epidemics. Establishing the feeding preferences of vectors is a common activity currently used in the studies of medical entomology conducted on vector-borne diseases. Classical methods used to determine these preferences may consist either in using traps with vertebrate hosts as attractants (birds, mammals) or in capturing fed mosquitoes and making the molecular analysis of the ingested blood. The results of the project concerning the analysis of the vector feeding preferences will be more comprehensive, because they will consist in correlating the results of the molecular analysis to the diversity and abundance of the available vertebrate hosts. This will be possible by processing the imagistic and video data captured by drones that will fly over the study areas at regular intervals, being equipped with optical cameras (during the day) and thermal cameras (during the night). Also, the tessellation of the image sets obtained in the visible spectrum and infrared will contribute to producing informational maps of the vectors and warm-blooded animals’ distribution correlated with the temperature profile and the general appearance of the habitat. These results will contribute significantly to the state of knowledge of the bio ecology of the possible vectors and vertebrate animals involved in WNV circulation. Quantifying the viral circulation in the different studied areas will make possible the identification of the areas and the conditions favorable to this circulation (identification of the viral outbreaks). All these results are in line and lead to the achievement of the project aim, carrying a significant contribution to the current state of knowledge of the epidemiology of the infections caused by West Nile virus.

  • Project name: AMSAR: Arbovirus Monitoring, SurveillAnce and Research – capacity building on mosquitoes and biting midges –
  • Implementation period: 2015-2017
  • DDNI budget: 25.439 Euro
  • Financing program: SCOPES 2013-2016 (Scientific Co-operation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland) – InstitutionalPartnership (IP) – Competition 2014
  • Parteners/Leader: project leader: Institute of Parasitology – University of Zurich – Switzerland. Parteners: Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development – Tulcea, Romania; Faculty of Veterinary Medicine – University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine – Iași, Romania; Faculty of Veterinary Medicine – University of Belgrade, Serbia; Laboratory of Parasitology – Scientific Veterinary Institute of Serbia.

Project description. AMSAR (Arbovirus Monitoring, SurveillAnce and Research – capacity building on mosquitoes and biting midges) is an institutional partnership (IP) with multiple tasks aimed at building of scientific capacity in research on vectors and vector-borne diseases in Serbia and Romania. Vector-borne pathogens such as the mosquito-borne West Nile virus (WNV), and the biting midge-borne Schmallenberg virus (SBV) and Bluetongue virus (BTV) cause major economic loses in endemic countries. WNV also represents a potential danger to human health as it is a zoonosis. Serbia and Romania have encountered increasing occurrence of vector-borne diseases in past years, and the emergence of vector-borne diseases which were not previously present in the climate area of the Balkans and South Eastern Europe can be expected in the future. Core goals of the proposed IP are (1) to improve research and teaching capacities on vector-borne pathogens in Serbia and Romania, (2) to provide vital support and skills to young researchers and (3) to establish strong scientific ties and networks between Switzerland, Serbia and Romania. Primarily, the IP is orientated towards enabling independent work of young scientists from the Republic of Serbia and Romania in the field of vector-borne pathogens and the vectors which transmit them. The second important role of the AMSAR project is to build sustainable scientific connections for scientists from this field with neighbouring countries and Europe in order to make strong and lasting relations in the context of these transboundary vector-borne diseases. The third role is to provide young scientist the opportunity to improve and share knowledge and skills and to make themselves a part of a multidisciplinary team that it is extremely important for monitoring, surveillance and research of the natural foci and dynamics of vectors and vector-borne infections. Furthermore, in the context of a “one health” approach, this IP will bring together scientists in the combat against diseases causing health problems in animals and humans and causing economic losses. The proposed IP is using an innovative multiplying approach for achieving its goals. Two young scientists from each partner country will be trained in state of the art research methods at the National Reference Center for Vector Entomology in Zürich, Switzerland. Afterwards, they will act together with the Swiss team as trainers at altogether three application-oriented summer schools in Serbia and Romania to train themselves a large number of PhD students and postdoctoral scientists in the relevant methods. For all trainings and summer schools, strong attention will be given to an equal gender distribution and on the promotion of young scientists.

  • Project name: PN 16 28 03 04 The effect of natural grazing on natural phytocenosis from Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and on animal and human health
  • Implementation period: 2016-2017
  • Total budget: 526.968 lei
  • Financing program: Programul Nucleu – ANCSI
  • Parteners/Leader: Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development – Tulcea

Project description. At Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR) level, the present management plan, does not include, directly, measures for monitoring of horses and other domestic herbivores that are found in feral conditions within the strictly protected areas. Although they have a negative impact in many directions, as follows: changing the vegetation cover, favorizing the invasive plants and parasitic diseases spreading. In this manner, the change of natural habitats, in relation with parasitosis and their control, is a serious issue that involves the human population and other population such as birds and mammals from lagoon area of Dobrogea. In this project frame, there is carried out the monitoring of flora from certain DDBR regions, in relation with number of domestic animals that are found in the wilderness. Thus, the project brings on new information about the future measures elaborated for the actual system of animal breeding in the wilderness. The elaboration of a measures plan that refers to rehabilitation, conservation and regeneration of flora in relation with natural pastures capacity support. Another proposed target is the identification of the plants with possible anti-parasitic effect by testing their extract within University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (FMV) from Cluj-Napoca, respectively Pharmacology and Pharmacy, Pharmacovigilance Lab. This collaboration opens new way of research in pharmacology, furthermore in hypothesis approaches described but unconfirmed in relation with impact on animal species from certain areas of DDBR. (Letea Forest and Caraorman Forest). The in vitro testing of parasites extracts with high interest for human and animal health. By means of objectives mentioned in the project, the study involves the enhancing of positive and negative effects on natural gazing in concern with plant diversity. There will be elaborated a measures plan for grazing management on pastures and their support capacity for grazing and animals found in certain regions of DDBR. The development of this project will sustain the future research approaches on therapy and anti-parasitic physiotherapy on animals found in the wilderness.