Monday, 15 February 2016

James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research

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**James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research**

James Cook University plans to shut down the amphibian disease group (Dr. Lee Skerratt and Lee Berger) in the One Health Research Group, based on the argument that this topic does not fit the One Health Concept (since amphibian diseases are rarely transmitted to humans and livestock). Such argument fails to recognize the actual One Health Concept, in which biodiversity loss is intrinsically linked to human health and wellbeing.

It is our feeling that any such decision, in which a leading, very successful research group is just made redundant, may affect all groups involved in the conservation of biodiversity. We feel it is very important that as scientists, we promote research into (in this case infectious) causes of biodiversity loss, also when diseases are concerned without immediate impact on human / livestock health. We therefore decided to convey our concern to James Cook University using the letter attached.

If you would like to support the continuation of one of the most prominent amphibian disease research groups, then please send the letter (below the ### ) to

University Council, JCU
Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor, JCU,

(Sorry for cross posting)


Dear Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding
and the University Council of James Cook University,

We heard with regret of the planned changes at the One Health Research Group of JCU, which would result in the loss of one of the most prominent research groups at a global scale involved in biodiversity loss due to infectious diseases.

Dr Lee Berger and Dr Lee Skerratt are among the world leaders in a high impact research field: amphibian declines. Whereas several institutions are now finally valuing the contribution of biodiversity to human health and wellbeing, we regret to see an opposite movement at JCU, narrowing the One Health principle to diseases affecting humans and livestock. One key component of One Health is indeed biodiversity, the loss of which indirectly affects both human and livestock health. This should not be narrowed down to diseases that are transmissible from wildlife. Several research groups have been advocating this comprehensive concept of One Health and this has been a very fruitful approach, leading to increased involvement in national and international policy and decision making.

Given the internationally supported concept of One Health and the key position represented by the research group of Drs Berger and Skerratt, we feel that abandoning this line of research would result in reputational damage for JCU through the loss of a leading role in a research field of high societal relevance.

We sincerely hope that the JCU vision will value the concept of One Health, in which currently it has a leading role, and will support the viability of the research group concerned with amphibian diseases as well as other infections of zoonotic or biodiversity concern.

Yours sincerely,