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Tue Oct 29, 2019, 07:18 PM

Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding.

Source: New York Times

Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding.

Predict, a government research program, sought to identify animal viruses that might infect humans and to head off new pandemics.

By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
Oct. 25, 2019

In a move that worries many public health experts, the federal government is quietly shutting down a surveillance program for dangerous animal viruses that someday may infect humans.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that a new animal disease that can also infect humans is discovered every four months. Ending the program, experts fear, will leave the world more vulnerable to lethal pathogens like Ebola and MERS that emerge from unexpected places, such as bat-filled trees, gorilla carcasses and camel barns.

The program, known as Predict and run by the United States Agency for International Development, was inspired by the 2005 H5N1 bird flu scare. Launched 10 years ago, the project has cost about $207 million.

The initiative has collected over 140,000 biological samples from animals and found over 1,000 new viruses, including a new strain of Ebola. Predict also trained about 5,000 people in 30 African and Asian countries, and has built or strengthened 60 medical research laboratories, mostly in poor countries.

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Even though USAID is “incredibly proud and happy over the work Predict has done,” the program is closing because it reached the end of a 10-year funding cycle, said Irene Koek, acting assistant administrator of the agency’s global health bureau.

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Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/25/health/predict-usaid-viruses.html

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