STEPS convenes multidisciplinary research team to tackle animal-to-human disease transmission

19 March 2012

An innovative £3.2m research programme exploring the connections between ecosystems, health and poverty in Africa has begun at the STEPS Centre and 16 other research institutes in Africa, Europe and the US.


The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium (DDDAC) brings together natural and social scientists in a unique partnership to embark upon an integrated approach to understanding zoonoses – those diseases which pass from animals to humans.

More than 60% of emerging infectious diseases over the past few decades have been zoonotic. While some quietly decimate poor people’s lives and their livelihoods, others have the potential to create dangerous global threats.

'One Health' approach

Melissa Leach, Professorial Fellow at IDS and Director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre, based at IDS and SPRU, University of Sussex, who jointly convenes the programme, says:

Diseases that affect poor people, including zoonoses, are often under-measured and therefore under-prioritised by those who determine national and international health systems.

'Through fieldwork and modelling work, DDDAC researchers will generate vital new knowledge on the impacts on zoonotic disease of ecosystem change such as climate change and habitat loss, ecology, and the interactions between humans and animals. This will provide the evidence base for informed and integrated "One Health" approaches to disease control.

'Our aim is to draw out new opportunities for policy, institutions and interventions to help people move out of poverty in Africa as well as other areas of the world.'

A focus on four zoonotic diseases

Funded by Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) for three and a half years, the DDDAC will see environmental, biological, social, political, and human and animal health scientists working on four zoonotic diseases, each affected in different ways by ecosystem changes and having different impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and livelihood.

These are:

  • Lassa fever in Sierra Leone
  • Henipa virus in Ghana
  • Rift Valley fever in Kenya
  • Trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe

The programme is one of three major research consortia funded by ESPA.

Global partnership

The DDDAC partners are as follows: 

  • In the UK: STEPS Centre; University of Cambridge; Institute of Zoology, London; University of Edinburgh; and University College, London.
  • In Ghana: Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, University of Ghana.
  • In Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi; Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI); and the University of Nairobi.
  • In Sierra Leone: Kenema Government Hospital; and Njala University.
  • In Zambia: the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries; and the University of Zambia.
  • In Zimbabwe: the Ministry of Agriculture; and the University of Zimbabwe.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre and Tulane University, US, are also DDDAC partners.

ESPA is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).