Government of Canada makes additional investments in mpox and other zoonotic disease research to improve health outcomes
May 24, 2023 – Toronto, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Last year, as the disease spread around the globe, Canada experienced its first major mpox outbreak. Increasingly, zoonotic diseases that were once contained to one geographic region are becoming worldwide health emergencies.
On May 11, 2023, the World Health Organization announced that mpox no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Even though the current mpox situation no longer represents a global health emergency, the Government of Canada recognizes that mpox is still circulating in Canada and globally. The ongoing management of mpox relies on continued vigilance for re-emergence of cases and a variety of public health measures.
Today, the Honourable Rob Oliphant, Member of Parliament for Don Valley West, announced, on behalf of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, an investment of $6.35M from the Government of Canada to support thirteen teams across Canada that will carry out national and global health research projects on mpox and other zoonotic threats. This new investment recognizes the continued risks of transmission of mpox and the threat posed by other zoonotic diseases in Canada and globally. This builds on the December 2022 investment of $5.5M in two research projects to better understand mpox transmission, evaluate potential vaccines and treatments, and learn how to disseminate this knowledge quickly.
All thirteen research projects are supported through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Funded projects focus on the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine against mpox, vaccination campaigns and mitigation strategies as well as identifying possible mammalian hosts of the mpox virus, and mathematical modelling of zoonotic disease transmission. The funded research projects include:
- Dr. Devon Greyson and researchers from the University of British Columbia and Dr. Michael Irvine and his team at the B. C. Centre for Disease Control will assess the effectiveness of public health and vaccination campaigns tailored to individuals living with HIV/AIDS and gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men.
- Dr. Alyson Kelvin and researchers from the University of Saskatchewan will leverage international partnerships to better understand mpox in its countries of origin in Central Africa.
- Dr. Robert Kozak and researchers from the University of Toronto will gauge the risk of a poxvirus outbreak in the Canadian agricultural sector.
- Dr. Bouchra Nasri and her team at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health will develop an epidemiological model of mpox that includes behavioural change. The modelling will be driven by the scientific literature and near real-time behavioural information from social media on prevailing attitudes towards mpox and members of the gay, bisexual and men who sex with men (gbMSM) community.
The work of zoonotic disease specialists in Canada will have a major impact at home and abroad. Through this research, Canada is taking a lead role in funding interdisciplinary research teams that will provide policymakers, clinicians, public health actors, and high-risk communities with timely and relevant evidence to better prevent, prepare for, and respond to current and future outbreaks of mpox and other zoonotic threats.
“Canada is not immune to future transmissions of mpox or other zoonotic diseases which is why investing in research that will strengthen our response is so important. Through this funding, researchers in Canada are taking the lead in understanding transmission, mitigation, and prevention to help Canada and countries around the world be better prepared for future zoonotic threats.”
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
“Congratulations to all the teams receiving this funding. Your research will produce evidence that public health authorities, health care providers and community-based health organizations can use to improve public health interventions for mpox and protect the health of Canadians.”
The Honourable Rob Oliphant
Member of Parliament for Don Valley West
“Last year’s surge of cases of mpox was the first global outbreak of the disease, and CIHR quickly responded. Now, even more research teams in Canada will have funding for important research in an expanding field: zoonotic disease prevention. With this funding, CIHR is helping to support researchers as they seek to better understand—and prevent—any zoonotic disease outbreak.”
Dr. Michael J. Strong
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
In 2022, mpox spread to many non-endemic areas around the globe, including Canada. This precipitated a global response and demonstrated the need for further study of this virus. The first human case of mpox was identified in Africa in 1970.
A zoonotic disease, such as mpox, is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to a human. Zoonotic pathogens can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment. Past zoonotic outbreaks include swine flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS), and COVID-19.
On May July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared mpox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The total number of confirmed cases of mpox in Canada was 1,484 as of April 28, 2023, with Ontario and Quebec leading in cases. Neary 87,000 cases have been confirmed globally.
CIHR’s Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies is providing funding for eleven of the mpox projects, while the HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBI) Research Initiative is funding two projects.
In December 2022, CIHR’s Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies and the International Development Research Centre invested $5.5M in two mpox research projects in Canada and Africa. Today, CIHR is investing a further $6.35M into thirteen research projects.
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.
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