Disease Outbreak Prevention Funding Should Go Toward Human Surveillance Not Broad Genomic Surveys To Mitigate Outbreaks

Nature: Pandemics: spend on surveillance, not prediction
Edward C. Holmes, professor of biology at the University of Sydney; Andrew Rambaut, professor of molecular evolution at the University of Edinburgh; and Kristian G. Andersen, assistant professor of immunology and microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute

“The resurgence of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this May is a stark reminder that no amount of DNA sequencing can tell us when or where the next virus outbreak will appear. … Broad genomic surveys of animal viruses will almost certainly advance our understanding of virus diversity and evolution. In our view, they will be of little practical value when it comes to understanding and mitigating the emergence of disease. We urge those working on infectious disease to focus funds and efforts on a much simpler and more cost-effective way to mitigate outbreaks — proactive, real-time surveillance of human populations. … Rapid identification of viruses can be achieved only if [genomic] technologies — and the people trained to use them — are globally available, including in resource-limited regions where the risk of outbreaks might be higher. … Ultimately, the challenge is to link genomic, clinical, and epidemiological data within days of an outbreak being detected, including information about how people in an affected community are interacting. Such an open, collaborative approach to tackling the emergence of infectious disease is now possible…” (6/7).

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