A centre to research animal-borne diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as bird flu and SARS, has opened at the University of Liverpool.
Experts at the Leahurst campus in Wirral will investigate Zoonoses - diseases that originate in animals but can infect humans.
About two-thirds of all human infections are transmitted from animals, the university said.
The research will concentrate on how to manage such diseases.
This will include tackling the problem of resistance to antibiotics and how to manage major outbreaks.
Professor Malcolm Bennett, Veterinary Pathologist and Co-Director of the centre, said: "Diseases such as SARS and avian flu are examples of new and emerging zoonotic diseases that hit the headlines.
"Rabies, for example, still kills more than 50,000 people every year, mainly in developing countries, while closer to home, most cases of food poisoning are also caused by zoonoses."
"While many people associate zoonoses with wild or farm animals, pets can also be sources of important human infections, sometimes even with fatal consequences."