Do we need a Global Virome Project?


Olga Jonas et al.,

There is debate in the scientific community about whether the animal-human infectious disease nexus warrants substantially more funding, science effort, and global policy discussion. Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, is a noted doubter. Others look to many past and present spillovers of pathogens from animals to humans and see a pattern. Much like map-making for newly-discovered continents, the Global Virome Project would be a pathway to improve capacity to detect, diagnose, and discover viruses that potentially pose threats to human populations, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. Cost estimates for the Global Virome Project range from an initial $1.2 billion to $3.4 billion over a 10-year period.  The projected cost is modest when it is put in perspective, in at least four regards. Both the supporters of the Global Virome Project and its skeptics need to be heard. An objective, apolitical assessment would be helpful in deciding whether spending up to $3.4 billion over the next decade is likely to produce scientific knowledge whose benefits are greater than the costs. Side discussions at venues such as the G20 or the UN General Assembly, could be opportunities for policy makers to set out implementation arrangements. They will need to draw on the advice of knowledgeable experts.


The Lancet