Source: International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the PREZODE (Preventing Zoonotic Disease Emergence) initiative, launched by the President of France Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, agreed today to build further collaborations to prevent the risk of zoonotic diseases emerging.
On the side-lines of the IAEA’s annual gathering of its 173 Member States, representatives of the IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative and PREZODE underlined their commitment to work together by signing the PREZODE Declaration of Intent on fighting such diseases that spread from animals to humans.
Aiming to support countries in detecting and preventing future outbreaks, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi launched ZODIAC in June 2020. It builds on the IAEA’s experience in assisting countries in the use of nuclear and nuclear-related techniques for the rapid detection of pathogens that cause animal diseases, including ones that spread to humans.
PREZODE is an international initiative addressing the challenges related to the prevention, surveillance, early detection and rapid response to risks of zoonotic pandemics. The initiative was announced by President Macron during the One Planet Summit in January this year, in line with the recommendations of a report on biodiversity and pandemics published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in October last year. PREZODE has so far won official support from four countries and more than 30 research organisations, non-governmental organizations and other initiatives.
IAEA experts will work closely together with PREZODE counterparts to explore areas of collaboration and foster synergies between the two initiatives, for example in capacity building or through the participation of representatives of both initiatives at each other’s events on zoonoses.
“As all of us have experienced over the past year and a half, the current pandemic has shaken the world and continues to plague much of it. For this reason, we must work together and create sustainable partnerships to provide efficient and effective support to countries to prevent future pandemics,” said Director General Grossi. “Our cooperation with PREZODE will create synergies that will benefit the global efforts in this fight.”
Up to 60% of known human infectious diseases come from animals. These so-called zoonotic diseases affect 2.6 billion people every year, out of which 2.2 million die on average annually.
“PREZODE, a prevention initiative that links scientific research, operational activities and public decision-making, welcomes the agreement with ZODIAC, in a spirit of cooperation and complementarity that is emblematic of the One Health concept,” said Jean-Luc Angot, France’s Special Envoy for the PREZODE initiative.
The ZODIAC project will establish a global network to help national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, avian influenza and Zika. More than 100 ZODIAC national laboratories are going to benefit from joint research, development activities or expert guidance as well as the technical, scientific and laboratory support of the IAEA and its partners. It will thus foster scientific collaboration and information sharing.
ZODIAC builds on the experience of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VETLAB) Network, a network of veterinary laboratories in Africa and Asia that was originally set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the IAEA to combat the cattle disease rinderpest. VETLAB now supports countries in the early detection of several zoonotic and animal diseases, such as African swine fever and peste des petits ruminants (PPR).
PREZODE involves more than 1000 actors from universities, schools, national and regional authorities, development agencies, foundations, human, animal, environmental health, and private sector organizations, across the globe.
The initiative is being co-developed by these various actors and will move towards its operational phase in 2022 with an international governance structure. It will consist of:
- A scientific and operational framework to coordinate research projects, health networks and operational actions to strengthen an integrated approach and maximize impact.
- A platform for sharing knowledge acquired through past, current and future projects and capitalizing on success stories and pilot actions in different regions of the world.
- A resource centre available notably for the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP), to facilitate in particular the development of recommendations for decision makers.
As the cooperation develops, ZODIAC and PREZODE will work towards further operationalizing their collaboration.
“The ongoing pandemic shows how state-of-the-art nuclear technologies are part of the response to the related challenges. IAEA set up its ZODIAC initiative right in time, and the cooperation that is being developed between ZODIAC and PREZODE will be an addition to the coordination of international efforts to tackle the risks deriving from zoonotic infectious diseases,” said Xavier Sticker, Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and International Organisations in Vienna.