Mapping 320,000 New Animal Viruses Crucial to Preventing Global Contagions: Report

Data collected from flying foxes in Bangladesh indicate that many more wildlife-born viruses could pass to humans

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Researchers collected data from flying foxes

At least 320,000 previously unknown viruses could be circulating in animals and identifying which might spread to humans is vital to prevent future pandemics, says a new study.

Prof. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the University of Columbia, says that identifying these viral diseases could cost more than $6 billion, but this is still a fraction of the cost of dealing with a major contagion.

“What we’re really talking about is defining the full range of diversity of viruses within mammals, and our intent is that as we get more information we will be able to understand the principles that underlie determinants of risks,” he says.

Nearly 70% of viruses that infect humans — including HIV, Ebola and Swine Flu — originated in wildlife. The new research, published in the journal mBio, is based on data collected from flying foxes in Bangladesh that has been applied to the 5,486 known species of mammal.