New research projects launch in Infectious Disease Control programme

Over the next few months 18 new projects will get underway in the second round of the Infectious Disease Control 3 programme. The projects will address subjects related to emerging infections, outbreak research, preparedness and response, One Health and non-alimentary zoonoses, and multimorbidity. They will focus on social issues to serve the general public interest of reducing the number of people who are ill (or seriously ill) as a result of infectious disease.

Goal of the programme and call

The goal of the Infectious Disease Control 3 programme is to promote a scientifically-based approach to infectious disease control and strengthen the knowledge infrastructure in order to make a substantial contribution to reducing the number of people who are ill (or seriously ill) as a result of infectious disease. This call (in Dutch) focused on:

  • Development of scientific and use-oriented knowledge on the spread and control of infectious disease. 
  • Evaluation/proof of the effectiveness and efficiency of existing disease control interventions.
  • Development of new and improved strategies and disease control interventions, taking into account social, societal and other factors. 
  • Encouraging scientific research during outbreaks.

Projects awarded funding

After treatment for Lyme disease, 4-6% of patients continue to experience severe long-term symptoms. A quantitative questionnaire will be used to examine how frequently symptoms after Lyme disease persist for several years, and the results will be used to improve diagnosis and treatment of symptoms. View the project.

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a bacterium carried in the nose and throat, which can penetrate into deeper tissue or the bloodstream, leading to life-threatening infections. The number of infections has risen sharply since March 2022. Genetic information and/or biological information will be studied to gain an understanding of risk factors and the effectiveness of current antibiotics policy in preventing new infections. View the project.

Current serology (antigen/antibody research) in the event of tick-borne diseases (TBDs) is not yet able to prevent TBDs and provide an understanding of exposure in humans and animals. Improved serology will improve early detection and treatment of TBDs, and potentially reduce the burden of disease. View the project.

Every year 70,000 people in the Netherlands fall ill due to cryptosporidium, a single-cell parasite that can cause intestinal infections and diarrhoea. Since the source of the infection often remains unknown, it is difficult to prevent new infections and outbreaks. A new typing method could improve source identification and contact tracing. View the project.

Bats carry a huge range of viruses. The goal of the project is to characterise the dynamics of viruses in and between bats in the Netherlands in relation to bat-human interaction and possible virus transfer. The knowledge of viruses in bats and human exposure to them acquired in the study will be used to make recommendations for improvements to existing guidelines and policy measures. View the project.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of intestinal infections and is found in water and various animals, where the bacterial DNA is threatened by invasion of DNA from other microorganisms, bacteriophages or plasmids. The adaptive immune system (CRISPR-Cas) protects DNA from this threat. By linking spacers to the source, we will investigate how CRISPR dynamics relate to environmental adaptation. View the project.

Yellow fever is an infectious disease caused by the yellow fever virus. It can be fatal. The vaccine gives lifelong protection, but there are often shortages. The likelihood that the yellow fever virus will come to Europe is growing. Some people will be unable to have the vaccine because they have an immune disorder, or because they are over the age of 60. In this study, test subjects will be used to investigate whether sofosbuvir can inhibit the yellow fever virus, as an alternative to vaccination. View the project.

Every year, around 10,000 sepsis patients are admitted to an ICU in the Netherlands, 25-40% of whom succumb to the disease. Survivors often have chronic damage to multiple organ systems, and an increased risk of readmission due to reinfection and other complications. Since no major breakthroughs are expected in acute treatment, the greatest impact for sepsis patients can be achieved through preventive measures in the post-discharge phase. This pilot project will investigate whether it is possible to better identify and predict reinfection after sepsis. View the project

Although the incidence of mpox has declined sharply since the 2022 outbreak, there is still a risk that the monkey pox virus (MPXV) will be reintroduced to the Netherlands. Vaccination trials have shown that the MVA-BN vaccine had low immunogenicity, but that antibody levels are increased considerably by a third dose of the vaccine. The goal of the study is to show that an intradermal booster can also be given using 1/5 of the dose, and that this is no less effective than the standard dose. This could save a considerable number of doses, and reduce side-effects. View the project.

For optimum prevention and control of infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, we need knowledge about which animals and people might be infected, in order to optimise monitoring and surveillance. This project will focus on a quantitative risk analysis of the transmission of bird flu from aquatic birds, via domesticated animals, to humans. Information will be collected from at-risk populations and analysed. View the project.

Invasive and chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (PA) are severe fungal infections that occur mainly in people with reduced resistance and chronic lung disease. There is currently no surveillance system for these infections, and one is sorely needed. Data collection is currently error-prone and labour-intensive, but new software using artificial intelligence (AI) would allow hospital information systems to be searched efficiently and anonymously. View the project.

Yeast infections such as Candida auris are on the rise, with a sharp increase in cases in Europe and around the world. Some imported cases have been recorded in the Netherlands. C. auris is often resistant to antifungals, which makes it difficult to treat infections in patients. The lack of screening and surveillance means that we have little knowledge of the incidence and spread of yeast infections. This project plans to set up screening and surveillance in order to prepare for the increase in C. auris. View the project.

Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus faecium (VRE) is a multi-resistant bacterium that causes large-scale outbreaks of disease in hospitals. To prevent outbreaks,  VRE-positive patients are isolated, which is an expensive process. This project will attempt to find the best VRE screening method on the basis of data from Dutch hospitals. The research results will lead to an algorithm for the rapid detection of VRE-positive patients, and a toolbox with PCRs will be developed for rapid deployment during outbreaks. View the project.

A GP surveillance network for viral respiratory infections is vital for  safeguarding public health. General practitioners take swabs from the nose/throat of patients, but this practice is coming under pressure as a result of growing workloads and other factors. Experience of self-testing during the Covid pandemic has shown that patients can test themselves. This intervention/monitoring exercise will study the acceptance, usability and feasibility of self-collection to replace sample collection by GPs. View the project.

Vaccination during pregnancy provides babies with effective protection from infection from birth, thanks to transplacental transmission of antibodies. Protection might be reduced in premature babies and babies with growth restriction as a result of reduced transmission of antibodies. This study will compare transmission of antibodies from mother to child following vaccination in various groups. In the event of reduced transmission of antibodies, the researchers will consider whether the vaccination programme for these children can be altered. View the project.

It is difficult to identify urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis, in elderly patients, so they are often inappropriately treated, or not treated at all. Five urine biomarkers have been identified that reliably indicate UTIs in elderly people. This study will explore whether these biomarkers have additional benefits when it comes to diagnosing UTIs in a large and diverse group of elderly people. View the project.

The fungus Aspergillus fumigatus plays an important role in the decomposition of plant waste, but it also causes lung disease. Farm workers may be exposed to high spore concentrations when working near heaps of agricultural waste. Do they run a higher risk of contracting Aspergillus-related lung diseases? A survey will be conducted to determine how often lung disease occurs, and which ones, and blood samples from some farm workers will be studied. View the project

In 2022 there was an unprecedented outbreak of mpox, with circulation in countries with no prior history of the disease. At-risk groups, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), were offered vaccines. The outbreak now appears to be under control, but new cases of mpox do occasionally occur. Virus-specific immunity does not therefore last long. This project will study the strength and duration of immunity generated by vaccination or infection. View the project.