|Project type||Epidemiological research|
|Funding agency||United States Agency for International Development|
|Objective||Early warning pandemic system|
PREDICT was an epidemiological research program funded by a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant. Launched in 2009, the program was described as an early warning pandemic system.
PREDICT was launched in 2009 in response to the influenza A virus subtype H5N1 "bird flu" outbreak in 2005. It was designed and overseen by Dennis Carroll, then the director of the USAID emerging threats division, with epidemiologist Jonna Mazet of the University of California, Davis as its global director. The program was one of four projects within USAID's Emerging Pandemic Threats program, the others being RESPOND, IDENTIFY, and PREVENT.
From 2009 to 2019, PREDICT collected more than 140,000 biological samples from various animals (potential reservoirs) including over 10,000 bats and 2,000 other mammals. Research teams of epidemiologists and wildlife veterinarians identified some 1,200 viruses with the potential to cause human disease and pandemics, including over 160 novel coronaviruses. The virus-hunting focused on "hot interfaces"—areas with high biodiversity, dense human populations, and environmental conditions are conducive to the spread of disease, and where human-animal interaction is high. PREDICT worked in regions including the Amazon Basin, South and Southeast Asia, and the Congo Basin.
The approach of virus hunting by PREDICT and other agencies has been criticized as an ineffective way to prevent pandemics. One virologist noted that cataloguing viruses was not enough, as spillover infections are often unexpected and difficult to predict. Also, viruses mutate quickly, making some die out while others can mutate to new hosts.
Funding and closure
PREDICT operated on five-year funding cycles, receiving about $200 million over the course of its decade in operation. Fieldwork ceased at the end of September 2019 after funding ran out, and the program was ended in March 2020 by the Trump administration, which has also cut funding for other global health security programs.
In February 2020, Senators Angus King and Elizabeth Warren criticized the shutdown of PREDICT, writing in a letter: "The rise of 2019-nCoV heightens the need for a robust, coordinated, and proactive response to emerging pandemics – one of the roles that PREDICT played." The senators wrote that the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (which is caused by 2019-nCoV) "threatens public health in the U.S. and abroad" and said that programs like PREDICT should be ramping up rather than shutting down.
On April 1, 2020, following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, USAID granted $2.26 million to the program for a six-month emergency extension; the UC Davis announcement said that the extension would support "detection of SARS CoV-2 cases in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to inform the public health response" and investigation of "the animal source or sources of SARS CoV-2 using data and samples collected over the past 10 years in Asia and Southeast Asia."
- Disease X
- Cross-species transmission
- COVID-19 pandemic in the United States § Background and preparations
- Johnson, Jeanne (n.d.). "The Virus Hunters -- Tracking Down the Next HIV". Association of American Veterinary Medicine Colleges. Archived from the original on 2020-03-14. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
- McNeil Jr., Donald G. (25 October 2019). "Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- Morrison, Jim (25 January 2018). "Can Virus Hunters Stop the Next Pandemic Before It Happens?". Smithsonian. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- PREDICT, EcoHealth Alliance (last accessed April 7, 2020).
- Emily Baumgaertner & James Rainey, Trump administration ended coronavirus detection program, Los Angeles Times (April 2, 2020).
- Cima, Greg (15 January 2020). "Pandemic prevention program ending after 10 years". JAVMA News. American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- Schmidt, Charles (2020-04-03). "Why the Coronavirus Slipped Past Disease Detectives". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
- Zachary Cohen, Trump administration shuttered pandemic monitoring program, then scrambled to extend it, CNN (April 10, 2020).
- "Letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Angus S. King, Jr., to USAID Administrator Mark Green" (PDF). January 30, 2020.