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Animal health


Animal health is a key area that relates to our strategic priorities in 'Agriculture and food security' and 'Bioscience for health'.


The focus of the animal health priority is to support fundamental and strategic research leading to the development of intervention strategies for combating endemic and exotic infectious diseases (including vector borne and zoonotic disease) that reduce the health and welfare of either animals farmed for food production in the UK (and where appropriate, in the international context) or other domesticated animals of importance to the UK economy.

Scientific scope

This priority covers diseases that undermine the sustainability of the livestock, poultry, aquaculture, equine or apiculture industries, or that affect international trade in animals for food or other purposes.

Research will inform: fundamental understanding of host, pathogen and their interactions; and development of intervention strategies (e.g. development of effective vaccines, novel diagnostics or breeding for disease resistance or tolerance) that will lead to the prevention, control or eradication of current or (re)-emerging animal diseases. For this priority, diseases include infestations by "pests", i.e. internal (helminth) or external (arthropod) parasites, as well as infections by viral, bacterial, protozoal or fungal pathogens, and multifactorial diseases.

The priority also includes: vector borne diseases; foodborne and other infections of zoonotic origin with implications for public health that are carried by farmed animals and other domesticated species, but in most cases do not necessarily have a significant impact on animal health. Studies of vertebrate or invertebrate wildlife reservoirs or vectors of infection are only included if they focus on the role of wild animals in the transmission to and/or maintenance of disease in the target species, and not on the nature or incidence of disease in the wildlife host per se.

Working with other funders, multidisciplinary research underpinning the 'One Health' concept is encouraged for infectious diseases of zoonotic origin. For the purposes of this priority, 'One Health' is defined as a collaborative approach to combat infectious disease of zoonotic origin by drawing on a common pool of scientific knowledge from multiple disciplines to improve the health and wellbeing of animals and humans in their environment.

Understanding some wider animal infectious disease issues e.g. pathogenesis, transmission, and the role of the gut microbiome in maintaining health and any potential health impacts of agricultural intensification are included in this priority area. The increasing challenge of antimicrobial resistance (including anthelminthic resistance) requiring the development of mitigation strategies is covered by the Combatting antimicrobial resistance priority. Issues of livestock breeding and management not related to disease are covered under the Sustainably enhancing agricultural production priority.

Research into infectious diseases can be pursued through the study of the pathogen, its host or the host's environment, or by addressing combinations of these aspects of the disease system. Proposals are sought for multidisciplinary projects that would exploit advances in laboratory, field-based or in silico approaches to improve understanding, at the cellular, individual animal or population levels, of the host-pathogen interface or its relationship with the host animal's environment. Research aimed at developing novel strategies to combat disease, in particular underpinning the development of next generation vaccines are welcomed, as are systems-based studies that integrate host/pathogen studies with the epidemiology, and population dynamics of disease.


For research aimed at developing strategies to combat disease, e.g. through developing next generation vaccines, working with industrial partners is strongly recommended.

Proposals that address the 'One Health' concept and involve other funders must be discussed with BBSRC Office prior to submission.

Diseases of non-farmed animals are excluded from this priority, other than animals for which a strong case can be made for a significant contribution to the UK economy, or domesticated animals when disease poses a zoonotic threat. If you are unclear about which animal species are included, please contact the BBSRC Office.

Outputs and impacts

Outputs from an increased understanding of the pathogen, host and host's environment will lead to the generation of knowledge to control endemic, exotic and zoonotic diseases of farmed and other managed animals. Impacts will include improvements to the health and welfare of managed animals, increased economic resilience to livestock diseases and more sustainable food production.


Translational opportunities for the outputs to impact on policy (including implications for human health) of Government departments and agencies (such as Defra, FCDO, FSA, DH and devolved administrations) and/or be taken up by industry (including vaccine development and breeding companies) should be explored as should the potential for international partnerships. Impacts on training and the UK skills base should be considered.

Ethical and other issues

Applicants will need to consider any requirements for animal usage (including power calculations), licences and ethical approval and should refer to our grants guide. Applicants are expected to adhere to the general principles and best practice outlined in the Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research guidance (see related links), and the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) guidelines (see external links).

Previous opportunities

  • Ecology and evolution of infectious diseases
  • Animal Health and Disease and Veterinary Immune Reagents (in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture)
  • Animal Health Research Club (ARC)