Reducing Biosecurity Threats from Infectious Diseases of Pandemic Potential in Southeast Asia
The spectre of an infectious disease pandemic continues to threaten the security and stability of governments, global markets, and livelihoods. The emergence of the H7N9 avian influenza virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus are two important reminders of the threat. This project will address the concern by strengthening regional capacity in Southeast Asia for understanding, preventing, preparing for, and responding to disease agents that have bioterrorism and/or pandemic potential. Global health threats defined Threats to global health security encompass: -natural emergence of diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; -possible acts of bioterrorism, as seen with the 2001 anthrax threats; or -potential accidental release of deadly pathogens, as per the 2012 research moratorium on H5N1 influenza. All three represent significant threats in Southeast Asia. The region continues to be a global hotspot of new infectious diseases. It is endemic to numerous pathogens with pandemic and bioterrorism potential. Southeast Asia also suffers from weak and poorly coordinated laboratory diagnostic, biosafety, and infrastructure capacity to deal with these challenges. Weak capacity further threatens the region Exacerbating these risk factors is the limited regional capacity to predict, prepare, and deal with pandemic diseases. There is a huge divide between researchers and decision-makers. Researchers study the underlying causes and factors influencing the emergence and proliferation of these diseases, while decision-makers develop and implement pandemic preparedness and response policies. Without the mechanisms needed for research to feed into field and laboratory surveillance programs, outbreak investigation protocols, and response, the region cannot respond effectively to an emerging pandemic-whether it is natural, accidental, or intentional. Linking research, surveillance, and policy This project will build a collaborative platform to connect research, surveillance, and policy development and implementation. In doing so, it will bring together the Asia Partnership on Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance Network, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The platform will undertake a series of interconnected activities, including: -research and surveillance on selected types of pathogens; -coordinated strategies for outbreak investigation and response; -biosafety training; and -laboratory capacity building for handling infectious pathogens with bioterrorism and pandemic potential. The project is part of an umbrella initiative funded by the Global Partnership Program of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A key aim of this support is to strengthen regional capacity to understand, detect, prevent, and respond to emerging pandemic threats in Southeast Asia.