Predicting Future Pandemic is Difficult, Scientists Only Know A Little Bit of the Viral World
April 20, 2021
- Identifying the origin of viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans is central to understanding the determinants of disease emergence.
- Attempts for animal-to-human disease risk assessment have grown in popularity.
- These types of assessments are considered important when preparing for a pandemic.
- However, such assessments are affected by the lack of data and may be questionable.
- Most of the viruses remain unknown and the total number has been estimated a couple of times.
- Scientists predicted that the total number of mammalian viruses is about 320,000.
- A more recent study revealed that the total number could be around 40,000, of which 10,000 can be transmitted to humans.
- The estimates suggest that we only know a little bit of the viral world.
- Virological data are also biased towards viruses that affect our socioeconomics.
- A more recent large-scale study of wildlife revealed a very large number and diversity of novel viruses.
- Researchers revealed that the virological data are incomplete, biased, and quickly changing with ongoing virus discovery.
- These deficiencies suggest that studies for animal-to-human disease risk using virological data can be inaccurate.
- Additionally, these largely only identify host taxa that have been examined most considerably.
- This study highlights the infancy of viral discovery and that prediction for future pandemics using current data can be difficult.
Wille M, Geoghegan JL, Holmes EC (2021) How accurately can we assess zoonotic risk? PLoS Biol 19(4): e3001135. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001135