Researchers across the globe working to improve the health and productivity of cattle in Africa can save both time and money due to a new interactive and user friendly database containing vast datasets generated by a large epidemiological study.
The full capabilities of the new The Infectious Diseases of East African Livestock (IDEAL) database are highlighted in a paper published today (Thursday 9 July 2020) in Nature Scientific Data.
Developed over three years by an international team of researchers led by Mark Bronsvoort and Rebecca Callaby from the Epidemiology, Economics and Risk Assessment (EERA) Group at the Roslin Institute and funded by the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH), The IDEAL database gives users free access to over 900,000 pieces of phenotypic and genetic data and meta-data as well as the study protocols from the IDEAL project.
The Infectious Diseases of East African Livestock (IDEAL) project was a longitudinal cohort study of calf health which was conducted in Western Kenya between 2007 and 2010. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the project collected information on 548 East African shorthorn zebu calves and followed them for the first year of life. Clinical data and blood and tissue samples were collected at every visit. The samples were screened for over 100 different pathogens or infectious exposures, using a range of diagnostic methods.
The IDEAL team were keen to improve the accessibility of the original project database and simplify its functionality so that other researchers could easily search the data generated by the project and use it to support their own studies in veterinary genomics, immunology and epidemiology. They therefore extracted the information held in the original database and reduced the 200 separate datasets to just eight linked and fully searchable tables.
The IDEAL database is also linked to an extensive biobank of over 20,000 serum, DNA and tissue samples that were collected during the original IDEAL study.
These samples are held at the Azizi biorepository at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya. Maintained under an open access policy, other researchers can apply for access to the bio-banked samples to support their own research.
By providing free access to samples and associated genetic and clinical data from the IDEAL project, researchers interested in studying the dynamics of infectious disease will also save time and money as they won’t need to conduct their own, often expensive, field work.
“The IDEAL project was a ground breaking study and was a huge challenge to manage in the field. Its success was down to the hard work of a large team of people. It is great that now all these data and the linked sample biobank at ILRI are available to the wider community.”
Professor Mark Bronsvoort, who also co-leads CTLGH’s Health Genetics research programme
It is hoped that the information held within the new IDEAL database will increase in the future as new tests are carried out on the bio-banked samples and new data are generated.
The IDEAL project
The Infectious Diseases of East African Livestock (IDEAL) project was a Wellcome Trust funded epidemiological study of calf health conducted in Western Kenya between 2007-2010.
Its aim was to determine the burden of infectious diseases in East African calves, learn more about the interactions between multiple infections and to use the information generated by the study to try and identify potential genetic markers for disease tolerance.
This large study collected information on 548 East African shorthorn zebu calves in Western Kenya and followed them for the first year of life.
Over the course of the study, the calves received regular health checks by a team of vets and animal health assistants, and blood and tissue samples were collected at each visit and screened for over 100 different pathogens by subsequent laboratory analysis. Post mortems were also carried out on any calf that died during the course of the study.
As well as collecting information about the calves themselves, data were also collected about the farm, the farmer, the dam and other animals on the homestead which resulted in a vast amount of valuable epidemiological data.
These data have been used by researchers across the globe to further their research and has been used in over 20 scientific papers and several PhD theses to date.