Predict, an animal virus surveillance program run by the United States Agency for International Development, is shutting down after 10 years of research, according to The New York Times. Launched after an H5N1 bird flu outbreak, Predict was part of an effort to search for previously undiscovered zoonotic diseases, which are passed from animals to humans. Viruses such as AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and certain influenza strains originally came from animals.
Researchers found more than 1,000 new viruses from animal samples collected during the program’s run, including a new Ebola strain. In addition, it provided disease outbreak prevention training for thousands of people and strengthened medical laboratories in developing countries.
The program, which partnered with universities, conservation groups, and nonprofits to track, monitor, and prevent disease, was shut down at the end of its 10-year funding cycle. Some public health officials worry that its end could leave the world more vulnerable to dangerous epidemics. “Predict needed to go on for 20 years, not 10,” says Jonathan Epstein, a veterinarian with the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, a Predict partner organization, to the Times.
Some projects will be continued by other government agencies, but the focus on training health workers abroad will be reduced. The end of Predict “is really unfortunate, and the opposite of what we’d like to see happening,” Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and the former World Health Organization director-general, tells the Times. “Americans need to understand how much their health security depends on that of other countries, often countries that have no capacity to do this themselves,” she adds.
Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.