UNMC to help identify, stop emerging animal-to-human infectious diseases

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC strategic communications | November 25, 2020

Image with caption: David Brett-Major, MD

David Brett-Major, MD

UNMC is part of an international consortium that has received a $100 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to anticipate and address threats posed by the emerging infectious diseases.

The cooperative agreement, called Strategies to Prevent Spillover (STOP Spillover) will identify emerging disease threats from animals to prevent, detect and respond before they become public health emergencies. The work also includes initial steps to recognize outbreaks and stop their spread early.

Considering more than 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases originate from animals, STOP Spillover is a critical next step in the evolution of USAID's work to understand and address the risks posed by zoonotic diseases that can "spillover" -- or be transmitted -- from animals to humans.

The cooperative agreement is designed for $100 million of activity divided across five years in 10 countries. U.S. and international partners will focus on work in the Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. UNMC's initial share of the award is $300,000 over five years for technical advice on outbreak management, but may grow.

David Brett-Major, MD, who holds a master's degree in public health, is the principal investigator for UNMC. UNMC participates in Nebraska One Health, a University of Nebraska consortium which brings together people with diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives to improve the health of humans, animals (wild and domestic) and plants.

Dr. Brett-Major, an infectious diseases physician, clinical scientist and medical epidemiologist, said the Nebraska team will provide technical advice on emerging infectious diseases. Particular attention will be given to how animal and human health systems interact as well as provide guidance on managing high consequence disease events such as a pandemic-threat outbreak.

"We are excited about this project," said Dr. Brett-Major, professor in the department of epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health and a member of the Global Center for Health Security. "We sometimes forget to complete the link between how communities experience emergencies across animals and households. UNMC being asked to be part of this initiative means that the consortium understands that. The University of Nebraska has a growing interest in Nebraska One Health and this is another step toward being substantively involved in that movement."

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