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Surveillance efforts are often narrow in scope (targeting a predetermined cohort of biological samples and testing for known pathogens). Lack of capacity at the source of sampling is problematic as surveillance reports can be seriously delayed while samples are sent to overloaded reach-back laboratories, and can take weeks or months to be processed with data release occurring many months longer.
Never before has the catastrophic impact of zoonotic spillover on humans needed less introduction. With overpopulation, pressure for shared resources (land, food and water) enhances the risk of pathogen crossover from wild animals into domestic animals and humans. Extensive networks of rapid global travel coupled with todays’ densely populated megacities all contribute to the risk of, and rapid spread of, emerging infectious diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in its 2007 report that infectious diseases are emerging at a rate that has not been seen before. Since the 1970s, about 40 infectious diseases have been discovered, including SARS, MERS, Ebola, swine flu and most recently SARS-CoV-2.
Many emerging diseases arise when infectious agents in animals are passed to humans. As the human population expands in number and into new geographical regions, the possibility that humans will come into close contact with animal species that are potential hosts of an infectious agent increases. When that factor is combined with increases in human density and mobility, it is easy to see how this combination poses a serious threat to human health. For example:
- The re-emergence of dengue is recognized as a major concern by the WHO with more than 40% of the world's population at risk and estimates of more than 390 million infections every year.
- Chikungunya recently received considerable attention due to outbreaks in the Indian Ocean, India, Europe, Americas, Cambodia, and Chad (2020) with over 1.5 million cases recorded to date.
- After early outbreaks in the Pacific in 2007 and 2013, Zika has spread to more than 30 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, affecting over 1.5 million people.
Epidemics of emerging and exotic nature are becoming more frequent and diverse worldwide and these outbreaks will inevitably continue into the foreseeable future.
Surveillance efforts are often narrow in scope targeting a predetermined cohort of biological samples and testing for known pathogens. Lack of expertise at source, complexities in data release and cold-chain shipping, and serious delays at overloaded laboratories cause results to take weeks or months to be processed. To overcome these obstacles and effectively DETECT, PREDICT and CONTAIN potentially emergent zoonosis of relevance, we need to radically change our current approach to improve the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and timeliness of the ‘data-to decision’ pipeline.
To address emerging infectious disease surveillance needs, the REDI-NET addresses the absence of scalable data and metadata management approaches that utilize distributed computing capabilities that have revolutionized scientific advances in other fields.
The REDI-NET consortium has developed a flexible, scalable, and expandable computing substrate - ‘a system of systems’ - upon which a myriad of global health computing platforms can be developed and customized to support specific modeling, prediction and policy decisions in support of public health. The REDI-NET focuses on enhanced surveillance approaches to characterize naturally occurring pathogens in temperate, tropical forest, and tropical grassland sites. With funding from the Department of Defense, the University of Notre Dame is implementing this project in partnership with Belize Vector and Ecology Center (BVEC), Navy Medical Research Center (NMRC), Navy Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE), Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU), Smithsonian Institute, Mpala Research Centre and Vectech.