Stricter wildlife monitoring needed to avoid further pandemics: Scientists

Stating that lack of screening for disease causing organisms in the wildlife trade was a matter of concern, the Wildlife Disease Surveillance Focus Group cautioned of stricter wildlife monitoring for reducing the risk of future pandemics.

The group said that it was much important to test and track the organisms that could cause diseases. This should be done to avoid any further outbreak of such deadly diseases, the Wildlife Disease Surveillance Focus Group. The group consists of scientists and researchers from various universities across the globe.

SARS and MERS were caused by crossover of pathogens from animals to humans. The present deadly coronavirus is believed to have originated from bats and transmitted to other wild life before getting into human beings.

The scientists said that wildlife must be tested closer to areas of risk and technology should be better used to avoid a repeat of coronavirus. They also mentioned that a greater oversight was needed for monitoring international wildlife trade was needed. There is no pathogen screening in wild life trade.

Most of the wildlife hunted or farmed end up in markets with poor sanitation and disease control, which makes them a breeding ground of viruses. As such, the Wildlife Surveillance Focus group has called for setting up more laboratories to test for pathogens. While Europe and North America have more testing facilities, Asia and Africa have only limited facilities. These two regions are the most vulnerable to such diseases.

They said that testing technology by using small, cost-effective devices like portable DNA sequencers could be used widely.  They also recommended creation of a central public database to assist in monitoring the risk of crossover to humans. This would help scientists and health workers to monitor how pathogens are evolving and identify early potential targets.

Apart from this, the group also wanted an international standard for wildlife trade, especially with respect to screening for products which are transported.

Professor Anna Meredith of the University of Edinburgh, who is associated with the focus group, was quoted as saying that no one gave much attention to the animal side of the human-animal equation


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