The Guardian: Global defence system to fight virus threats urgently needed

Fresh on the heels of the recent Ebola epidemic, the current Zika virus threat has many asking what to better prepare for such infectious disease outbreaks. Writing in The Guardian, Trevor Mundel of the Gates Foundation and Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust have some suggestions:

A healthy body has three essential systems for staying that way. There is physical fitness, building resilience against threats. There is the brain, to spot danger and take action. And there is the immune system, to neutralise infections that breach other defences.

The world needs similar systems to protect against epidemic and pandemic diseases. We need a fit body – a basic infrastructure of public health. We need a nerve centre for preparedness and response – an international organisation to tackle threats. And we need an immune system – vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat disease.

On the need for a better approach the developing vaccines and drugs, they write:

All four [recent UN reports on the Ebola epidemic] agree on the need for public, private and philanthropic sectors to step up investment in R&D for diseases where industry lacks much prospect of a market return. When such research takes place at all, it generally relies on the goodwill of pharmaceutical companies prepared to take a loss – Ebola vaccines are a prime example. That isn’t sustainable, not when we know of dozens of threatening pathogens for which, like Ebola in 2014 and Zika today, we have no vaccine or cure.

Read the full piece, along with their recommendations, here.