PREDICT, a project of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program, was initiated in 2009 to strengthen global capacity for detection and discovery of viruses with pandemic potential that can move between animals and people. Those include coronaviruses, the family to which SARS and MERS belong; paramyxoviruses, like Nipah virus; influenza viruses; and filoviruses, like the ebolavirus. PREDICT has made significant contributions to strengthening global surveillance and laboratory diagnostic capabilities for new and known viruses.
Now working with partners in over 30 countries, PREDICT is continuing to build platforms for viral surveillance and for identifying and monitoring zoonotic pathogens or those that can be shared between animals and people. Using the One Health approach, the project is investigating the behaviors, practices, and ecological and biological factors driving disease emergence, transmission, and spread. Through these efforts, PREDICT is improving global disease recognition and beginning to develop strategies and policy recommendations to minimize pandemic risk.
WHAT WE DO
PREDICT’s surveillance for emerging pathogens focuses on areas of the world at the highest risk for zoonotic disease emergence. The goal is to move countries away from a reactive post-outbreak response to a proactive approach in which pathogens of pandemic potential are discovered at their source before large-scale epidemics occur in people.
Our strategy is based on the inextricable link among animals, humans, and the environment. Rather than casting a broad net, PREDICT works in each focus country to target situations with high risk for disease emergence and cultivates targeted, measurable, adaptive, and responsive approaches that are integrated across health and environmental sectors.
PREDICT’s viral detection success lies in the use of broadly reactive consensus (genus/family level) PCR supplemented with high throughput sequencing. These powerful tools produce specific, high-resolution data, allowing for rapid detection of known and new potential pathogens. PREDICT has developed and optimized detection protocols and built capabilities in laboratories serving the countries in which we have engaged, ensuring regional capacity to detect pandemic threats.
ONE HEALTH PARTNERSHIPS
PREDICT, at its core, is built upon One Health partnerships. Cross-disciplinary collaborations are critical for gaining a more full understanding of the integral links among human, animal, and environmental health that can provide opportunities for prevention or early detection and control of disease threats. By working across sectors and including a diverse range of stakeholders and expertise, PREDICT helps operationalize efforts that promote public health, effective natural resource management, and development. In countries and at a global level, PREDICT enables and supports implementation of One Health practices. Toward this goal, we have worked closely with a wide range of government ministries, scientific institutions, local organizations, and other stakeholders to further One Health initiatives.
Efforts have taken the form of inter-ministerial data sharing and interpretation, interdisciplinary capacity building for surveillance, and coordinated outbreak response activities. Building on identified best practices, PREDICT is working with Emerging Pandemic Threats program partners to develop an evidence base to demonstrate the value of the One Health approach.
The PREDICT approach could be especially important for the diagnosis of mystery illnesses in medical hospitals when other, traditional options fail and in veterinary labs where testing options are often limited. By testing targeted samples based on the circumstances that promote disease transmission and the route of exposure, PREDICT can detect known and novel viruses in tandem, rather than sequentially.
PREDICT uses a multidisciplinary approach to identify groups of people at highest risk of exposure to emerging pathogens, and the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of risk. Our teams assess community perceptions of animal exposure and disease risk and evaluate widely held assumptions of community practices (e.g., high risks from bushmeat hunting). We are identifying and monitoring the risk factors for zoonotic diseases with pandemic threat potential.
Our methods will lead to well-rounded understanding of disease spillover and transmission dynamics, essential to the design and evaluation of mitigating interventions, and to informing policy by identifying barriers to change and acceptable alternatives.
Preparing for emerging disease threats requires investments in infrastructure, institutions, and human resources across a broad array of health and social systems to operationalize One Health platforms. In collaboration with country governments and EPT partners, PREDICT is committed to developing the infrastructure and core skills and capabilities required by tomorrow’s One Health workforce.
Through PREDICT, more than 2,500 people (and counting) have been trained in biosafety, field epidemiology and surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, social sciences and behavioral risk investigations, and modeling and analytics, creating an extensive network of global One Health professionals to support long-term zoonotic disease surveillance.
Modeling & Analytics
PREDICT uses state-of-the-art modeling and analytic approaches to guide surveillance and help countries consider disease control and prevention strategies. We are producing next-generation, fine-scale hotspots maps, combining in-country data on land use, socioeconomic, and agricultural changes with surveys of human behavior, market value chains, and livestock production to identify where zoonoses will spillover, where they will amplify, and who is at risk.
By using data direct from PREDICT viral testing and conducting outbreak scenario modeling, we will provide information on which pathogens are most likely to become pandemic and which control and mitigation strategies can be most effective.
PREDICT works closely with host governments and partners to interpret and share information through systems designed to protect and ensure data quality and accuracy. PREDICT data are managed in a purposefully-designed internal information management system, in which all data undergo a rigorous quality control process. Viral detection test results are interpreted in light of all available data by PREDICT virologists.
After interpretation, results are provided to host governments for examination, to inform policy, and for approval for public release through the PREDICT data site powered by HealthMap. This open access platform allows users to visualize PREDICT data along with disease events worldwide.