Tufts University to lead $100M program to reduce risk of zoonotic viral spillover, spread

Program will involve large consortium of wildlife and human disease experts and networks from around the world

Tufts University will lead a $100 million, five-year program to understand and address threats posed by zoonotic viral diseases that can “spill over” from animals to humans, such as SARS-CoV-2, in an effort to reduce risk of infection, amplification, and spread, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today.

Strategies to Prevent Spillover (STOP Spillover), which builds on Tufts’ deep expertise in One Health (the interrelated health of humans, animals, and the environment) and a number of related fields, will involve wildlife and human disease experts from both the university and organizations across the globe. The program aims to enhance the capacity of local, national, and regional institutions in countries across Africa and Asia to understand factors that contribute to the risk of zoonotic spillover; develop and implement measures to reduce early risk of spillover and spread; and quickly identify and respond to spillover events.

“The transmission of zoonotic viral diseases to humans can cost lives, disrupt economies, and create lasting human health and societal problems, as we’ve seen most recently with the impact of COVID-19,” said Deborah T. Kochevar, the STOP Spillover program director and a faculty member at Tufts.

“Viral zoonotic disease outbreaks are becoming increasingly frequent. In our approach, it is not enough to know what to do to reduce viral spillover risks. We must also work with partners to institutionalize knowledge in existing systems, adapt learning to the local context, and continuously expand upon newfound expertise,” she added.

STOP Spillover will be implemented by Tufts University and a consortium of wildlife and human disease experts that includes: the Africa One Health University Network; Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University; Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team; International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b); Internews; JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc.; Southeast Asia One Health University Network; Tetra Tech ARD; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Glasgow Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health, and Comparative Medicine; the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center; and the University of Washington Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication.

The Tufts University consortium will build on previous USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats One Health programs to include characterization of risks and development of behavior-change interventions based on environmental, ecological, gender, behavioral, socio-cultural, economic and political factors.

The program leverages expertise from across Tufts’ schools in infectious-disease forecasting, surveillance, prevention, and eradication; food and water safety and risk reduction; social behavioral change; global health diplomacy; and One Health programming and education.

“Part of our mission at Tufts is to make the world a better place, and with this initiative, Tufts and its many coalition partners will make a lasting, positive impact on global health,” said Anthony P. Monaco, the university’s president.

The Tufts schools and centers involved in the program include Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University School of Medicine, The Fletcher School, the Feinstein International Center, and the School of Engineering.

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