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.
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.
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.