Emerging Infectious Diseases

The first quarter of the 21st century has demonstrated the risk of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with changing climate, urbanization and the growing global economy introducing vectors to new areas and pathogens to new vectors. As of 2021, diseases like West Nile, Ebola, Zika, avian influenza, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, swine influenza and SARS-CoV-2 have emerged or remerged, causing epidemics and pandemics.


As these diseases are new, medical countermeasures are frequently limited or non-existent, creating a significant danger to force health protection and public health. Diagnostic tests can have difficulty distinguishing between emerging diseases and other closely related diseases. Treatments for viral diseases in general are limited and are even more so for emerging pathogens. Medical interventions in general typically require several years until emergency approval much less full licensure. For example, the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV was approved for use in December 2019, four years after the West Africa Ebola outbreak. Conversely, through innovative science, ample funding and a streamlined regulatory process, several SARS-CoV-2 vaccines received emergency use authorization in less than a year, potentially setting the tone for future emerging infectious disease responses. These experiences underscore the need for ongoing disease surveillance as well as flexible scientific infrastructure.


With decades of experience identifying and overcoming infectious diseases, AFRIMS is well positioned to rapidly shift its focus to overcome the most pressing threats of the day. Established study sites and ongoing collaborations across Southeast Asia allowed researchers to effectively reallocate resources and staff from legacy programs to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 


With over 89 million cases and greater than one million deaths worldwide (as of 10 Jan 2021 per the World Health Organization), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the causative virus of coronavirus disease 2019, has had impacts far and wide. A betacoronavirus in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 1 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, the relative ease of transmission of this respiratory pathogen combined with limited treatment and initial absence of vaccine have led to much interest and study since initial discovery in late 2019. One of the troubling observations is that people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 can transmit the virus to others before they have symptoms or without ever having symptoms of disease. Its emergence and rapid spread poses a significant danger to Service Members and civilians alike around the world. 
Retrovirology | Veterinary Medicine | Virology


Zoonoses are pathogens that jump from animals to humans. These diseases particularly relevant to areas where humans are frequently in contact with animals, particularly those that were previously undisturbed. Zoonotic diseases are particularly relevant to Soldiers from home station to dense, urban or subterranean environments, where they can come into contact with endemic diseases like multidrug-resistant bacteria as well as emerging viruses like SARS-CoV-2 or Ebola. Furthermore, they significantly impact food security, the environment and more, threatening global health and stability. The growing focus on zoonotic disease is part of One Health, a transdisciplinary, multisectoral approach to optimizing health that recognizes the interrelatedness of human health, animal health and the environment. AFRIMS surveils zoonotic diseases among animal populations to inform countermeasure development efforts across Southeast Asia. 
Veterinary Medicine