With 1.6m unknown virus species circulating, scientists warn preparation is key to plan for future outbreaks

Date published: 14 April 2021

The importance of cross sectorial inclusive working is crucial to ensure the right diagnostics systems are in place to help detect 99% of all viral threats within the next 10 years before they spill over into humans and livestock according to leading scientists from Queen’s University Belfast, Public Health England, DAERA and the Food Standards Agency.

Mr Colin Coffey (AFBI Chair)

As part of the recent virtual annual Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Outlook Science conference a number of top Professors discussed the key learnings from the Covid 19 pandemic and in particular the interactions between animal and human health with 60% of human pathogens present in domestic animals or wildlife.

Professor Miles Carroll, Deputy Director, Head of Research & Development Institute, National Infection Service, Public Health England
Professor Miles Carroll, Deputy Director, Head of Research & Development Institute, National Infection Service, Public Health England
Professor Miles Carroll, Deputy Director, Head of Research & Development Institute, National Infection Service, Public Health England emphasised the importance of understanding the huge array of pathogens and having a strategy in place to deal with the way they transmit between animals and humans.

“There are currently over 1.6m unknown virus species within our ecosystems and more viruses are emerging continually as human behaviour changes. Our research and data show that early diagnostics are vital for outbreak response and while vaccination is the most cost effective was to reduce disease burden, we need to be prepared now for future outbreaks to minimise spill over and transmission.”

Professor Stuart Elborn, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Stuart Elborn, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast
In summarising the session Professor Stuart Elborn, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast commented, “Science has an impact on a range of sectors and one of the learnings from the pandemic is the importance of working across academic disciplines, government bodies, countries and jurisdictions in order to deal with this world challenge.  As we look to the future we must embrace disruptive technologies including DNA sequencing and amplification to ensure we have the right sampling and diagnostics in place for future virus surveillance and health protection.

The full conference and individual sessions can be viewed on the AFBI YouTube Channel

Panel Discussion from Session One of the AFBI Science Outlook Conference 2021
Panel Discussion from Session One of the AFBI Science Outlook Conference 2021

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