Rigorous Wildlife Disease Surveillance

July, 2020


Evidence suggests that zoonotic (animal origin) coronaviruses have caused three recent emerging infectious disease (EID) outbreaks: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In the search for an intermediate host for SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19), studies have identified SARS-CoV-2–like strains in bats and pangolins, but these do not contain the same polybasic cleavage site that is present in SARS-CoV-2. It is unknown what the intermediate host for this spillover event was because to date there are no international or national conventions on pathogen screening associated with animals, animal products, or their movements, and capacity for EID diagnostics is limited along much of the human-wildlife interface. EID risks associated with the wildlife trade remain the largest unmet challenge of current disease surveillance efforts.

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