UPLB obtains approval to pursue research program on zoonoses

UPLB's proposal to create the UPLB Program for Zoonotic Diseases is now approved by the Board of Regents (BOR) -- the highest governing body in the U.P. System.

The World Health Organization identifies zoonoses as diseases or infections that are "naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans". Majority of new and existing diseases are caused by zoonoses, such as the Ebola virus affecting humans and nonhuman primates, and HIV that is now only affecting humans.

It can cause major disease outbreaks that can re-emerge or escalate into a global pandemic like the COVID-19, which has become a public health problem affecting many countries around the world, including the Philippines.

In response to this problem, the past UPLB administration, under Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. through former Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Rex B. Demafelis, initiated the establishment of a Zoonoses Center last September.

A few months later, the proposal to create a research program for zoonotic diseases towards the establishment of the National Zoonoses Center at UPLB was approved by BOR in its 1359th meeting on 25 March 2021.

Dr. Jezie A. Acorda, an expert on diagnostic imaging and veterinary medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine, and current Vice Chancellor for R&E Dr. Merdelyn C. Lit took over the program under the new UPLB administration.

With the combined specializations of UPLB researchers, the Zoonoses Program is expected to bring science-based evidence in understanding emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases. This will help in the detection, prevention, and response to zoonotic diseases. Other institutions will also be tapped for collaborations.

Aside from the research component, part of the program is to initiate public service activities. UPLB will be able to provide data on zoonotic diseases for disease-response and policy-making; trainings and workshops for health professionals; evidence-based recommendations to the government; and activities to inform and engage the public on zoonotic diseases.

In the pipeline, the program will be institutionalized into a National Zoonoses Center, and it will be "capable of more wide-ranging research and public service initiatives including serving as a diagnostic testing center, capable of performing advanced techniques, to contribute in the surveillance of infectious diseases."