Researchers from Australia, Singapore and the US are joining forces, through a AU$20 million partnership, to help pre-empt and prepare the world for the next human pandemic.
Speaking in Canberra today, before a gathering of Australia’s leading biosecurity researchers, Dr Gary Fitt, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Director, said recent global events highlighted the need to ramp up research into viruses that spread from animals to humans.
“We now know that 70 per cent of new diseases in people have originated in animals,” Dr Fitt said.
“We are lucky to have a strong biosecurity system, backed by world-class science, but we live in an increasingly connected world with trade and people movements putting us at greater risk.”
Recently a new SARS-like virus has emerged from the Middle East and has killed 45 of 82 people infected since September 2012.
Known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it has spread from the Middle East to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Tunisia.
While in China there is a new strain of highly pathogenic bird flu, known as H7N9, which is spreading undetected, killing people instead of chickens. It is unknown how it spreads.