JAN 19, 2017 03:54 PM PST

Global Coalition Targets Three Viruses

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
2 5 455

A worldwide consortium of scientists have prioritized the development of vaccines for three specific pathogens that pose a serious risk to global public health: Mers, Lassa Fever and Nipah. The consortium, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (Cepi), has made the creation of two vaccines for each virus with five years their target. Bill Gates speaks with the Wall Street Journal in the video below about the effort.

The Ebola outbreak that occurred in 2014 in West Africa is seen as a wake up call. "Before the 2014 outbreak we only had very small Ebola epidemics that were in isolated communities that we were able to control,” commented Jeremy Farrar, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, which is one of the founding members of Cepi. "But in the modern world with urbanisation and travel, 21st Century epidemics could start in a big city and then take off the way Ebola did in West Africa.

"We have to be much better prepared,” he told the BBC.

The World Health Organization agrees that these viruses pose a danger. They are at the top of WHO’s list of priority diseases that could cause a major outbreak. Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of the WHO, told the BBC: "Besides the known threats - such as Ebola and others - there are also all those viruses that are known but are thought to be very benign. They could mutate and become more dangerous for humans. Then there are the things that are completely unknown to us at the moment," Dr. Kieny said.

Transmission electron micrograph of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome CoV particles found near the periphery of an infected MRC-5 cell. / Credit: NIAID

Mers is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), many of those that have been infected have died after developing symptoms including coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Like the other prioritized viruses, it probably comes from an animal – a zoonotic virus.

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicted a number of Nipah virus virions that had been isolated from a patient's cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimen. / Credit: CDC

The CDC states that Nipah Virus was first identified in 1999 after pig farmers in Singapore and Malaysia fell ill and were found to have encephalitis, or brain inflammation. While the pigs weren’t getting particularly sick, millions of them were euthanized after the 300 or so human cases resulted in over one hundred deaths. A different strain of Nipah sickened people in Bangladesh in 2004, and human-to-human transmission has been documented in a hospital setting in India.

Lassa fever / Credit: CDC

Lassa Fever was identified in West Africa in 1969 following the deaths of two missionary nurses. There have not been reliable measurements of infection rates, but it the CDC reports estimates of 100 to 300 thousand cases and around 5,000 deaths every year in West Africa, where it is endemic in some regions. At any rate, it is known to be a serious problem in the places it currently threatens.

 

"We've got lucky so far," said Jeremy Farrar; the world has not had to deal with a dangerous airborne pathogen. He reminds us that it is possible for a far more contagious type of virus that causes symptoms like Ebola, could arise. "I could cough it over you today and you could cough it over someone tomorrow and it could spread very quickly. That puts the world in a very vulnerable place."

Since we don’t know what virus is going to result in the next outbreak, companies aren’t leading the way toward vaccine development. Cepi, discussed in the press conference above, currently gets support from various governments, such as the countries of India, Germany, Norway and Japan. It also receives funding from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

 

Sources: BBC, Cepi, CDC

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 04, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 04, 2018
Neutralizing Infections with Nanotechnology
Clearing bacterial infections from the body can present challenges. Engineers are trying to use nanorobots for such situations.
JUN 15, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 15, 2018
A Fast-acting Vaccine for Cholera
Worldwide, bacteria that causes fast-spreading cholera kills anywhere from 21,000 to 143,000 people every year.
JUN 22, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 22, 2018
Antiviral Compound Found in the Human Body
The human body can make a compound with a special power to fight viruses - an enzyme called viperin.
AUG 02, 2018
Immunology
AUG 02, 2018
Chronic Infections Outsmart the Immune System
Chronic parasitic infection shown to take advantage of a mechanism to sustain infection and induce death of white blood cells essential to immune response.
AUG 05, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 05, 2018
The War Beneath Our Feet
The bacteria living in the soils of Earth seem locked in battle with the fungi there.
AUG 14, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 14, 2018
Germs are Gaining Resistance to Hand Sanitizers
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not as effective as they once were.
Loading Comments...