Australian researchers are joining forces with scientists overseas to prepare for the next human pandemic.
A new SARS-like virus has emerged in the Middle East and reportedly killed 45 people, and in China, a new strain of bird flu is killing people instead of chickens.
CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Director Gary Fitt will tell Australia’s leading biosecurity researchers on Thursday recent global events highlight the need to ramp up research into viruses that spread from animals to humans.
‘We now know that 70 per cent of new diseases in people have originated in animals,’ he says in a statement.
‘We are lucky to have a strong biosecurity system, backed by world-class science, but we live in an increasingly connected world with trade and people movements putting us at greater risk.’
He says CSIRO and Duke-NUS (an alliance between Duke University in the US and the National University of Singapore) have signed a relationship agreement with a view to forming an International Collaborative Centre for One Health.
That $20 million partnership would take a new approach to tackling these deadly viruses, he says.
The virus in the Middle East has already supposedly killed 45 of 82 people infected since September 2012. Dr Fitt says it is still unknown how the new strain in China of the highly pathogenic bird flu, known as H7N92, is spreading undetected.
CSIRO Science Leader and Director of the Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS, Linfa Wang, says responding to the emerging threats needs a new approach that integrates medical, veterinary, ecological and environmental research.
‘Bringing all of these disciplines together to develop a One Health approach rather than working independently is what our new international partnership is all about,’ he said in a statement.
They are already combining CSIRO’s world-leading bat virology research with Duke-NUS medical expertise in the development of new and more effective methods for the discovery, treatment, prevention and control of new and emerging diseases in people.
What could we be in store for?