In the first phase of the PREDICT Project (2009-2014) we conducted global surveillance to detect and prevent spillover of pathogens of pandemic potential that can move between wildlife and people. The project, which is now in its second five-year phase, is part of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program and is led by the UC Davis One Health Institute, which is part of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The implementing partners are USAID, Wildlife Conservation Society, EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota and Smithsonian Institution.
Summary of PREDICT 1:
PREDICT has compiled the most comprehensive data on the risk of zoonotic disease emergence throughout the world.
Our risk-determination efforts aimed to identify hotspots for emerging diseases of pandemic potential to guide surveillance and help countries develop disease control and prevention strategies. Our risk maps show that the drivers of disease emergence vary by region, but common drivers are population growth, land-use change, agricultural intensification and related factors like bushmeat hunting and consumption.
Using data from our global surveillance efforts, PREDICT's first phase produced the first scientifically based estimate of the total number of unknown viruses in wildlife (mammals). This pool of about 320,000 viruses is lower than many had previously suggested, and it is the pool from which the next pandemic would emerge.
PREDICT’s surveillance for emerging pathogens focused on areas of the world at the highest risk for zoonotic disease emergence. The goal was to move countries away from a reactive post-outbreak response to a proactive approach in which pathogens of pandemic potential are discovered at their source before diseases have the opportunity to spillover.
Our staff and partners focused surveillance on species most likely to serve as reservoirs of disease, working at human-animal interfaces where pathogen transmission is most likely to occur.
Traditional public health and disease surveillance systems have ignored the inextricable link between animals, humans and the environment. PREDICT has been instrumental in broadening understanding, improving capabilities, and linking key stakeholders to build a more comprehensive and flexible approach to surveillance. Rather than prescribing an across-the-board surveillance plan, PREDICT has allowed project leads in each country to establish targeted, measurable, adaptive, and responsive approaches that are integrated across health sectors.
Most approaches to viral discovery are extremely expensive and available only in sophisticated labs with teams of diagnosticians. Since PREDICT’s lab work has taken place in some of the most resource-constrained countries around the globe, a cheaper, more technologically simple alternative was sorely needed.
PREDICT's diagnostic success had in part to do with ability of almost any lab to use broadly reactive consensus (genus/family level) PCR, a powerful tool that produces specific, high-resolution data that allows for quicker detection of known and new potential pathogens. In the first five years of PREDICT, we developed and optimized detection protocols and capacities in laboratories in 20 countries.
Our approach was especially important for the diagnosis of mystery illnesses in medical hospitals and veterinary labs where testing capacity could be limited, as well as for minimizing spread during outbreak response. By testing targeted samples based on the circumstances that promote disease and the potential route of exposure, we were able to detect known and novel pathogens in tandem, rather than sequentially. This minimized the spread of viruses that could have caused illness, epidemics, and pandemics in people.
To conduct surveillance in wildlife for zoonotic pathogens, a basic level of in-country capacity is needed. Field samples must be collected, transported to diagnostic labs and analyzed for identification of known and novel pathogens.
More than 1,600 people were trained in the first five years of PREDICT, creating an extensive field/laboratory infrastructure and a substantial, long-term wildlife surveillance footprint.
Our capacity building efforts have led to improved cold-chain infrastructure in remote areas, new field and diagnostic protocols, development and roll-out of universal quality-control materials for labs and the formation of One Health task forces that include PREDICT personnel and other collaborators.