The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the latest pathogen that “spreads” from animals to humans, but hundreds of thousands of other viruses lurking in animals can pose a similar threat. Now a new online tool ranks viruses according to their potential to jump from animals to humans and cause pandemics.
The tool, called SpillOver, essentially creates a “watch list” of newly discovered animal viruses that pose the greatest threat to human health. The researchers hope their open-access tool can be used by other researchers, politicians and public health officials to prioritize viruses for further research, monitoring and risk-reducing activities, such as the possible development of vaccines or therapeutic agents, before a disease spills over.
“SARS-CoV-2 is just one example of the many thousands of viruses out there that have the potential to spread from animals to humans,”
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Risk of spillage
Some 250 viruses are known to be “zoonotic”, meaning they have already been spilled from animals to humans, and it is estimated that 500,000 plus viruses have wastewater, the researchers write in an article on the SpillOver tool that was published Monday (April 5). in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But not every virus is as likely to spread from animal to human. So the researchers created a “credit-like” score for viruses as a way to assess and compare their risks.
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To get the score, the tool considers 32 risk factors associated with the virus and its host, such as how many animal species the virus infects and how often humans interact with wildlife in the areas where the virus has been detected.
The researchers then used the tool to rank 887 wild-type viruses based on their risk of waste. (Most of the viruses included in the location have recently been discovered, but some are already known to be zoonotic.)
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Top 12 viruses on the list were known zoonotic pathogens, with Lassa virus being first, SARS-CoV-2 and Ebola virus third. (The main host for the Lassa virus is rats, and the main host for the Ebola virus is thought to be bats. The main hosts for SARS-CoV-2 are unknown, but the virus has been shown to infect mink, lions and tigers. .)
The authors said they expected this result – known zoonoses ranking at the top – and used it to validate the tool.
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But given the current far-reaching threat to human health, why did SARS-CoV-2 not come first? The researchers said their tool ranks the potential for future spillover events. Some important information about SARS-CoV-2 remains unknown, e.g. The number of host species it infects, and it may take the peak when scientists learn more about it, the authors said.
Among viruses that are not yet zoonotic, the top-ranking virus was coronavirus 229E (bat strain), which belongs to the same viral family as SARS-CoV-2 and infects bats in Africa, according to information from SpillOver. Another top-ranking virus is the coronavirus PREDICT CoV-35, which also belongs to the coronavirus family and infects bats in Africa and Southeast Asia.
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The authors noted that SpillOver is a crowdsourcing platform that allows other researchers to contribute data on viruses already included in the list or add viruses to the list, and the location may change as new data is added.
“This tool is intended to start a global conversation that allows us to go far beyond how we have previously thought about virus rankings, and allow real-time scientific collaboration to identify new threats early,” co-author Jonna Mazet studies. professor at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said in the statement. “SpillOver can help advance our understanding of viral health threats and enable us to act to reduce the risk of profit before pandemics can catch fire.”
This article was originally published on WordsSideKick.com.