Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are infections that jump from animals to humans. These infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, prions and fungi. Recently, a strain of coronavirus jumped from animals to humans, causing the COVID pandemic. The United Nations Environment Programme warns of the growing risk of zoonotic diseases.

There are five phases of infectious zoonotic diseases:

1. Pre-emergence

2. Emergence

3. Localized transmission

4. Epidemic

5. Pandemic

Healthforanimals.org estimates that there are 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year caused by zoonotic diseases.  The International Monetary Fund expects to raise its forecast that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the global economy $12.5 trillion through 2024.

Animal Surveillance

Wildlife and Livestock Tissue Samples

Convergent A+H has access to species libraries containing almost 500,000 samples.  This offers a unique opportunity to identify existing animal borne diseases that might in the future jump to humans. Convergent A+H will sequence the pathogens in each sample, beginning with the animal species know to transfer disease to humans. These are bats, rats, and other rodents. Convergent A+H’s proprietary bioinformatics will identify previously unknown viruses in the sample tissues.  With this sequence data and by using evolutionary and structural biology, Convergent A+H will be able to estimate the number of mutations necessary for the disease to jump to humans.  Convergent A+H will then conduct follow up miRNA analysis on the samples to identify the changes in miRNA biomarker profiles that were in response to the pathogens.

Animal Surveillance

Role of Technology in Protecting Against Pandemics

According to Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, scientific advances are helping prevent pandemics. Through mobile apps and hotlines, people can now report unusual sickness in livestock or poultry and unexpected die-offs among wildlife, giving authorities a chance to identify the disease, cull the infected animals as needed, and quarantine nearby humans. Additionally, digital surveillance can flag everything from a local news report of a market closure to a spike in online searches for pediatric thermometers, although greater investments in situational awareness is needed. Convergent believes surveillance should be focused on pre-emergence. We know what viruses humans and livestock carry; it is the ones that humans don’t currently carry that become pandemics, thus the need to focus on pre-emergence.  Pre-emergence pandemic surveillance is a new market.