How do you research the next pandemic when you don’t know what, where or when it will be?
Emerging diseases present a challenge that brings together scientists, health care providers and policy makers. Which scientific collections can help predict the future course of a disease?
- Major Partner: U.S. HHS
- SciColl Report: Scientific Collections and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Report from an Interdisciplinary Workshop available now!
How do you study Emerging Diseases in Scientific Collections?
Emerging diseases are not confined purely to a medical context, but rather exist in the realms of researchers, institutions, healthcare providers and policy makers. We at SciColl aim to catalyze the growth of a global network of these individuals and organizations in order to streamline cross-disciplinary efforts of disease research and response. Scientific collections offer a unique resource for research, both on past epidemics and current diseases.
Animal- and plant-specimen collections in museums have historically provided scientists species standards and the ability to trace disease distribution patterns over time and space. Medical collections contain large strain and tissue repositories to analyze current and past diseases. For example, scientists can compare a pathogen’s genome to known sequences to determine if the pathogen is new or re-emerging.
With the development of new, more virulent diseases, scientific collections offer a diverse array of research material for a comprehensive understanding of particular diseases. New DNA technology can track the course of a disease over hundreds of years and across oceans and continents. A changing population and landscape present even more challenges in the scope of health care.
Scientific collections can be a shared resource in a network that spans various disciplines and continents. By combining research efforts, these collections increase the potential to predict the behavior of future diseases and the location of future outbreaks.
Major Partners: US Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) was created under the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to lead the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. ASPR focuses on building community health resilience through preparedness planning, response, and recovery; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters. The office provides federal support, including medical professionals through ASPR’s National Disaster Medical System, to augment U.S. state and local capabilities during an emergency or disaster. ASPR engages with international partners to create an all-hazards approach to improve global capabilities to deal with public health emergencies including those that arise from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, and natural disasters. Accordingly, ASPR leads international programs, initiatives and policies to strengthen domestic and international public health and medical emergency preparedness and response.
One of the many priorities of ASPR is science preparedness, which is a collaborative effort to establish and sustain a scientific research framework that can enable emergency planners, responders and the whole of community to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from major public health emergencies and disasters. Science preparedness is not a practice in and of itself. It is the result of the coordination and integration of sound scientific research, a comprehensive research infrastructure, leading public health practices, and all-hazard emergency management efforts. The advancement of applied outcome measures through scientific research before, during and after a disaster or public health emergency provides a finite window of opportunity to identify, collect and analyze critical and time-sensitive data and information needed to protect the health and safety of responders, communities and our nation, both immediately and long term.
There are no events currently scheduled for this research initiative. Please check back for updates, or join our mailing list and select “Emerging Diseases” to be notified.
Two-day workshop, 23-24 October 2014, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The workshop explored the types of scientific collections that can contribute new and valuable data to our understanding of infectious diseases and our ability to predict the emergence and spread among animal and human populations. Representatives from a diverse range of fields, including medical researchers, veterinarians, public health officials, and wildlife scientists, convened for two days of in-depth discussions as part of a preliminary effort to promote interdisciplinary collaborations and communication.
Day 1's sessions were devoted to the presentation of case studies, afterwhich panelists from different disciplines were given the floor to describe how collections under their purview had or could have contributed to the case study.
|Opening Remarks||David Schindel
Chair of the SciColl Executive Board, Smithsonian Institution
|Scientific Collections International and Zoonotic and Human Disease Research|
|Keynote Address||Stephen S. Morse
Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health
|Windows into Emerging Infections|
|Emergence & Detection||Joseph A. Cook
Museum of Southwestern Biology & University of New Mexico
|Emergence and Detection of Hantaviruses in Southwestern US and Beyond|
Natural History Museum London
|Value of Collections for Characterizing NTDs: The Case of Schistosomiasis in West Africa|
|Mitigation & Intervention||Judy Hewitt National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health||Outbreak of a Novel Hemorrhagic Fever in Southern Africa and Virus Identification|
|Prediction & Monitoring||Gene G. Olinger, Jr National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health||Prediction and Monitoring - Goal: Early Warning System, Data: Leading and Lagging|
Day 2’s sessions were entirely discussion-based with the goal of compiling new strategies for collaboration, communication and scientific collection use across disciplines. The results of these discussions are the basis of the meeting report.
These topics included:
- Examples of cross-disciplinary efforts that streamline the transfer of collections-derived data and information;
- Data gaps and/or instances of disconnect between stakeholders and scientific collections;
- Novel approaches to research, communication and cross-disciplinary integration of data provided by scientific collections; and
- Changes in institutional, national, and international policies, procedures, and best practices that could enable these novel approaches by facilitating access to and sharing of samples from scientific collections.
Specimen collections should have a much bigger role in infectious disease research and response.
On behalf of the workshop participants, the convenors authored an opinion piece discussing the need for stronger connections between the public health first-responders and the scientific collections communities. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2016)
The Role of Scientific Collections in Scientific Preparedness.
SciColl offered a novel opportunity for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, to explore the value of scientific research collections under the science preparedness initiative and integrate it as a research resource at each stage in the emergence of the infectious diseases cycle. (Emerging Infectious Diseases, August 2015)
- Scientific Collections and Emerging Infectious Diseases: Report from an Interdisciplinary Workshop, March 2015
Representatives from a diverse range of fields, including medical researchers, veterinarians, public health officials, and wildlife scientists, convened for two days of in-depth discussions to promote interdisciplinary collaborations and communication.
- Scientific Collections and Emerging Infectious Diseases: Presentation Slides Describing an Interdisciplinary Workshop, June 2015
As part of the Action Items identified by the Workshop Participants, presentation slides were developed and are provided to the broader community to facilitate further discussions on these topics.
- Engaging Scientific Collections in Emerging Infectious Disease Research: Workshop Agenda, October 2014
Agenda for the two-day workshop exploring the roles of scientific collections in the detection, characterization, mitigation and prediction of emerging infectious diseases.
Genomes of museum specimens have been studied to understand when Tasmanian devils were first affected by contagious cancer and how genetic diversity might play a role?