A team of global researchers from Africa, Europe and North America, have embarked on a mission to develop a strategy to detect and intercept emerging zoonotic diseases from wildlife in Africa that could eventually infect humans.
The researchers revealed that they have proposed a four-part approach to detect and contain zoonotic diseases, especially those that begin in animals but spill over into humans, like COVID-19 and HIV.
Their approach was outlined in an article recently published in the Lancet Microbe, an open access journal that publishes research articles with focus on clinically relevant microbes.
Lead researcher, a University of Arkansas biologist and an assistant professor, Kristian Forbes, said efforts needed to be intensified to identify dangerous wildlife diseases before they pose serious threats globally.
“A lot of research effort to prepare against the threat of novel disease emergences of wildlife viruses has been to identify unknown viruses in wildlife that might someday infect humans.
“These efforts have been very successful for identifying new viruses; indeed, thousands have been discovered, but we don’t currently have the tools to know which of them pose the most immediate risks to human health,” Forbes said.
He revealed that to enable fast detection of new zoonotic disease outbreaks, they “ Proposed a system of procuring and screening samples from hospital patients with fevers of unknown origin, analyzing samples from suspicious fatalities of unknown cause, testing blood serum in high-risk or sentinel groups and analyzing samples that have already been collected and archived.”
According to Forbes, none of the methods adopted are new, but are yet to be combined into a continent-wide program aimed at rapid detection.
“Given limitations to the current model for preventing disease emergence, our article focuses on a coordinated and widespread strategy for early detection, so that novel disease outbreaks can be intercepted before they potentially become global pandemics,” the biologist said.
Meanwhile, the Lancet Microbe, concluded that emerging zoonotic viruses are one of the greatest threats to human health and security, as evidenced by the increasing frequency of disease outbreaks.
It noted that till date, the main pre-emptive response to the outbreaks has been extensive, cost-heavy efforts to document virus diversity in wildlife.
The open access journal noted that although, the efforts have resulted in the identification of thousands of novel viruses, fewer than 1 per cent are described to date, adding that substantial challenges remain around access and benefit sharing from viral discovery programmes, and, perhaps most problematic for public health application, the spill over hazard of the viruses which can only be coarsely inferred at present.
“Our ability to control and restrict the spread of infectious diseases is critically dependent on early detection, it added.
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