SARS-CoV-2 showed the world with devastating clarity the threat that undetected viruses can pose to global public health. SpillOver, a new web application developed by scientists at the University of California, Davis, and contributed by experts from around the world, ranks the risk of spreading newly discovered viruses from wildlife to humans.
SpillOver is the first open source risk assessment tool to evaluate wildlife viruses to estimate their zoonotic spread and pandemic potential. Effectively create a watch list of newly discovered viruses to help policy makers and health scientists prioritize them for further characterization, surveillance, and risk reduction interventions.
The tool is linked to a study published in the journal PNAS, in which the authors identified the most relevant viral, host and environmental risk factors for the spread of the virus. The team then classified the risk of 887 wildlife viruses using data collected from a variety of sources, including viruses detected by USAID’s PREDICT project of emerging pandemic threats, which the UC Davis One Health Institute conducted from 2009 to 2020. .
Coronavirus High Rank
Topping the list were 12 known human pathogens, which was expected and validates the utility of the tool. Interestingly, SpillOver ranked several newly discovered coronaviruses as having a higher risk of spillover than some viruses that are already known to be zoonotic. This watch list includes a new coronavirus provisionally named PREDICT_CoV-35, which made it into the top 20.
The power of the tool lies in the fact that it is open source – the more data you enter, the stronger the ranking. SARS CoV-2 currently ranks second out of 887 viruses tested, among Lassa and Ebola viruses.
That may seem counterintuitive, the authors note, given the current global devastation of the pandemic. They explain that the tool is classifying the potential for another spill beyond what has happened historically. Additionally, key information about SARS CoV-2 and its risk of spread, such as the number and variety of its host species, has yet to be discovered. As scientists learn more about this virus, it is possible that SARS CoV-2 will move to number 1.
“SARS-CoV-2 is just one example of many thousands of viruses that have the potential to spread from animals to humans,” said lead author Zoë Grange, who led the development of SpillOver as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis One. Institute. of health. “We need to not only identify, but also prioritize the viral threats with the highest risk of spread before another devastating pandemic occurs. Our SpillOver viral risk rating tool is the starting point for creating proactive solutions. “
Virus ‘credit score’
SpillOver was inspired by the risk assessments used by banks and insurance companies. Create a “credit-like” score for viruses by looking at key risk factors and using them to prioritize those viruses that pose the greatest potential threats to human health for a watch list. Users can customize the watchlist based on their own circumstances, such as the country of interest.
Previous virus classification tools have been limited in the number or types of viruses tested, with minimal risk factors considered. SpillOver considers 32 risk factors for the virus and its hosts, including the associated environment and human behaviors. It also includes 25 different viral families, from coronaviruses to the viral family that causes ebolaviruses.
Classify your virus
SpillOver produces a detailed risk report for each virus, and its ‘Risk Comparison’ tool allows users to compare and contrast classified viruses, as well as filter viruses on a selection of key attributes, including virus species, virus species, hosts and country of detection.
As an open source tool, SpillOver provides a living platform for continuous spill risk classification. Scientists can contribute data to existing viruses or assess the risk of new viruses using the “Rank Your Virus” application.
“This tool is intended to start a global conversation that will allow us to go far beyond what we thought about virus classification in the past and enable real-time scientific collaboration to identify new threats early,” said corresponding author Jonna Mazet. , a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, founding director of the One Health Institute, and former global director of PREDICT. “SpillOver can help us improve our understanding of viral health threats and enable us to act to reduce the risk of spillover before pandemics can catch fire.”
SpillOver engages and enables scientists who are discovering viruses to collaborate in a One Health framework that focuses not only on viral characteristics but also on all the circumstances present in high risk areas for disease occurrence. This allows the tool to be a catalyst for rapidly identifying and classifying newly discovered viruses and their human-animal transmission interfaces.
This paradigm shift can facilitate early collaboration, across national and disciplinary boundaries. Identifying and classifying viruses based on risks to human health can help scientists identify critical checkpoints and address human behaviors that put humans and animals at risk for a new viral infection.
Reference: April 5, 2021, procedures of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2002324118
Study co-authors include hundreds of people who supported the PREDICT Project in their home countries and institutions, as well as world scientific leaders in virus emergence and major collaborating institutions, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, Smithsonian Conservation Biology. Institute, University of ColombiaInfection and Immunity Center.
Financial support for the study was provided by USAID’s Emerging Threats Project.