The September Special Issue of Parasitology  is ApiCOWplexa 2013 – 2nd International Meeting on Apicomplexan Parasites in Farm Animals, volume 141, issue 11.  The guest-editor Andrew Hemphill from the Institute of Parasitology at the University of Berne, Switzerland, discusses the special issue below.

“Apicomplexan parasites such as Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium, Eimeria, Neospora, Sarcocystis, Besnoitia, Babesia and Theileria cause important diseases and economic losses in the production of cattle, pork, poultry, sheep, goats, and are also important pathogens in pets, game and wild animals. The 2012 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on multicriteria-based ranking for risk management of food-borne parasites has listed the two apicomplexans Toxoplasma and Cryptosporidium fourth and fifth, respectively, on the global ranking of parasites causing food borne diseases.

Research that focusses on parasites that infect farm animals has become increasingly important. The steady increase in the number of people living on this planet that require safe and nutritious food, the globalization of the food trade, increased international travel, and the higher numbers of persons at risk due to changes in culinary habits are important factors contributing to the need for increasing our knowledge on this group of pathogens. In addition, the significant improvements in diagnostic technologies have increased the general awareness of food-borne diseases. The methodologies for detection, surveillance, prevention, control, and treatment also continue to evolve. Novel developments in the field allow for productive data mining, innovative laboratory methods, and more rapid and accurate diagnostics. From the public health point of view, all aspects are crucial to maintain, or even increase, the provision of safe food from farm animals.

In order to achieve progress, networking activities are crucially important. ApiCOWplexa represents a platform for networking activities among researchers, industrial partners, students and public health officials interested in apicomplexan parasites of farm animals.  The broad attendance of ApiCOWplexa 2013 in Kusadasi (Turkey) clearly reflects the need for networking between scientists that work on these organisms. Nevertheless, such networking activities, and research on parasitic foodborne diseases in particular, have been grossly underfunded for many years. Topics of ApiCOWplexa 2013 included epidemiology, genetic diversity and phylogeny, food safety aspects, animal models, functional genomics and transcriptomics, host-parasite interactions on the cellular and immunological levels, drugs and drug targets, the development of vaccines, and novel and improved tools for diagnosis.

This special issue is composed of reviews and scientific papers of this conference, with the aim to provide an insight into the diversity and complexity of the field. One disease that was clearly more frequently addressed than before was bovine besnoitiosis, which is caused by the largely unexplored apicomplexan Besnoitia besnoiti. Bovine besnoitiosis is an emerging disease and could develop into a potential threat to productivity in the cattle industry. There are many open questions regarding its life cycle, definitive host, modes of transmission, dynamics of the infection in cattle, and host- and parasite-derived factors influencing the host-parasite relationship.”

Read the special issue in full for free until 1st November 2014

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