Virus Detectives: Surveillance To Prepare For Next Pandemic

To curb emergence of next pandemic viral surveillance is crucial. Rapid diagnostic tests and screening tools are vital.

Virus Detectives: Surveillance To Prepare For Next Pandemic
Diagnostics | Jan. 10, 2023

History has a way of repeating itself, and the history of epidemics/pandemics is no exception. Humankind has experienced pandemics before (the Spanish Flu, the Plague, Ebola). While we are still amid COVID-19, there are chances of newer pandemics breaking out in future. We cannot control that but can be prepared for what is coming our way.

Considering the ways “nature” and “human” worlds collide, there are high possibilities of viral disease transfer from one to another. According to an article in Nature (Infectious disease in an era of global change | Nature Reviews Microbiology), the last few decades have witnessed an unprecedented era of demographic, technological, and climatic change. And as population numbers continue to climb, this presents an escalating threat to humankind, including the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.

As the world gets more connected, viruses can cause global outbreaks in no time. Our only shield to preventing the next pandemic is a readiness to reduce the threat of emerging infections with the correct information and planning.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of robust healthcare systems to deliver optimal care to all. It has also made us focus on access to primary care, the importance of diagnostic tests, vaccinations, and antiviral therapies to be delivered to a vast population on time.


Preparing for tomorrow, today

It is common knowledge that quick suppression of infections requires diagnostic investigations of more people to identify who is infected, tracking them to ensure they do not spread the disease further, and tracing contacts. The use of advanced rapid diagnostic test and screening tools help mitigate the spread of disease and gives individuals the information to be in control of their health. They help detect diseases at an early stage and treat them thereby leading to better health outcomes.

As epidemiologists and researchers indicate, pandemic preparedness plans for infectious diseases include surveillance to detect pathogens, data collection and modelling to see how they spread, improvements to public-health guidance and communication and the development of related therapies and vaccines. Such health monitoring systems help understand the spread of diseases, monitor trends, identify hot spots and new pathogens, and accelerate research development efforts.

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) came together to create epidemiological surveillance programs to reduce the incidence and effects of emerging infectious diseases in animals and humans. WHO’s FluNet a health information system, is a global influenza surveillance and response program which informs annual influenza vaccine development. (;;

Ensuring effectiveness in recognizing new COVID-19 variants

Data-driven insights

Viral surveillance programs like the above can help to gather a wide range of data sets (patient data, data from health systems, routine public health data, and health research data) to power global research and development efforts. Based on the insights gleaned from the data, researchers can pre-empt emerging diseases for timely and appropriate interventions. They can also help enhance antiviral therapies, diagnostic tests, drug repurposing, identifying biomarkers of severity, and vaccine development and production.

During COVID-19, researchers and scientists from across the globe shared data and resources on platforms like those created by the WHO and the Lancet’s Data Sharing Working Group. Such technology-driven collaboration led to the development of vaccines in a little over a year, which is much earlier than the shortest period of four years it took to develop a vaccine for mumps in 1960. Therefore, data sharing can help to build a health infrastructure that can quickly identify emerging infectious diseases to help prevent the next pandemic.

Rapid self-testing to safely navigate the festive season

Collaborating for better health

Collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders – governments, international agencies, academia, and funding institutions – is crucial for the success of global health initiatives to build viral surveillance and action capabilities. Abbott understands this need and is committed to collaborating closely with its global partners to make healthcare more intuitive.

Abbott’s global network of research, academic, and public health collaborators are actively sequencing viruses to look for the next viral threat, including COVID-19 variants, through Abbott's Pandemic Defence Coalition, dedicated to the early detection of and rapid response to future pandemic threats.

The coalition makes it easier for all participating partners to share the latest information and samples and verify the tests within days rather than weeks or months. With continuous efforts to build defenses against the current pandemic and learn from it, Abbott aims to contribute to healthcare innovations that can prepare us for any future eventuality.


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