Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Arcticle on Preventing the Next Pandemic

Scientific American did a great arcticle on preventing the next pandemic. It's a must read. A quick summary of the points:

"1. Most human infectious diseases originated in animals.
2. Historically, epidemiologists have focused on domestic animals as the source of these scourges. But wild animals, too, have transmitted many diseases to us, including HIV.
3. To address the threat posed by wild animals, researchers are studying the microbes of these creatures and the people who come into frequent contact with them.
4. Such monitoring may enable scientists to spot emerging infectious diseases early enough to prevent them from becoming pandemics. "

And an interesting excerpt....

"Today HIV is so pervasive that it is hard to imagine the world without it. But a global pandemic was not inevitable. If scientists had been looking for signs of new kinds of infections in Africans back in the 1960s and 1970s, they could have known about it long before it had afflicted millions of people. With a head start like that, epidemiologists might well have been able to intervene and mitigate the virus's spread. HIV is not alone in having emerged from an animal reservoir. More than half of human infectious diseases, past and present, originated in animals, including influenza, SARS, dengue and Ebola, to name a few. And today the vast interconnectedness of human populations, linked so extensively by road and air travel, allows new diseases to become pandemic more quickly, whether they come directly from wild animals, as did HIV, or indirectly, by passing from wild animals to domestic ones and then to us, as in the case of Japanese encephalitis virus and some strains of influenza. In response to these threats, my colleagues and I recently developed a bold new plan to monitor wild animals and the people who come into frequent contact with them for signs of new microorganisms or changes in the bugs' activity. We believe such eavesdropping may provide the early warning needed to stop pandemics before they start."

To read the full article (highly recommended) visit:

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