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PREZODE: preventing zoonotic disease emergence

Marisa Peyre, Gwenaël Vourc'h, Thierry Lefrançois, Yves Martin-Prevel, Jean-François Soussana, Benjamin Roche.

Article published on February 2021.


As of mid February, 2021, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has killed approximately 2 million people worldwide and caused profound economic damage, with a global growth reduction of 4·4% in 2020. The ultimate consequences of this crisis are difficult to predict but, from sanitary, economic, sociological, and ecological perspectives, the toll is already substantial. Nevertheless, this threat is not new. Concerns over a global pandemic have arisen many times before, so most countries already had emergency preparedness plans in place. However, the limitations of these have been exposed by the current coronavirus pandemic. The reasons for these inadequacies are many, and point towards one misconception: contrary to current approaches, prevention strategies should be implemented before the disease emerges within human populations.

During the last several decades, pathogen screening has been developed to anticipate the next pandemic. Although isolating new wildlife-borne pathogens is still important, it is not enough to prevent them from emerging. It is time to take a step forward—namely, by jointly deploying academic research, intersectoral collaboration in the field, and the engagement of operational actors on the front lines of outbreaks—to envision prevention strategies that lead to the reduction of risks of emergence.

Such a scheme is at the heart of the PREventing ZOonotic Disease Emergence (PREZODE) initiative, a French brainchild that has attracted the interest of the Tripartite Alliance (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, World Organisation for Animal Health, and WHO), as well as the UN Environment Programme, the World Bank, the European Commission, and partner countries. Announced at the One Planet Summit on Jan 11, 2021, the PREZODE initiative was prepared through a series of online workshops that convened nearly 400 researchers and public health authorities from 50 countries on all five continents. We expect that PREZODE will be done under the guidance of the planned One Health high-level expert council.

PREZODE aims to support inter­national organisations and countries across the globe, particularly low-income countries, to prevent the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. This initiative is an attempt to initiate a framework shift to envision innovative prevention strategies, on the basis of five pillars: (1) zoonotic risk assessment, (2) zoonotic risk reduction, (3) early detection and socioeconomic evaluation, (4) a global surveillance system of zoonotic risks, and (5) ensuring stakeholder commitment and capacity building to strengthen One Health networks and policies.

This international initiative will debut in 2021, with the co-design of a scientific and strategic agenda to be shared by researchers and stakeholders before the first implementation plan launches in 2022. On behalf of the initiative, we would like to invite the scientific and medical communities to join this effort to co-construct an ambitious plan in the different regions of the world, leveraging existing projects, programmes, centers, and hubs. The PREZODE initiative promotes an international coordination strategy to tackle emerging risks (WHO, World Organisation for Animal Health, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and UN Environment Programme) by deliberately putting a strong focus on prevention and co-construction to ensure sustainable solutions, in addition to preparedness.

We declare no competing interests.

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