Introducing STOP Spillover

July 14, 2021

By Dr. Deborah Kochevar, STOP Spillover Project Director and a faculty member of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and senior fellow at the Fletcher School, both of Tufts University.

Today I am pleased to introduce to you Strategies to Prevent Spillover (or “STOP Spillover”), a global consortium funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and led by Tufts University, that takes the next critical steps in understanding and addressing the risks posed by known zoonotic viral diseases with potential to spill over from animals to people.

Over five years, our consortium of 14 organizations will work in 10 countries and focus on a number of prioritized zoonotic viruses, including Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Nipah, animal-origin coronaviruses (including SARS, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2), and zoonotic influenza viruses. Consortium partners bring expertise in infectious disease forecasting and epidemiology, virology, virus ecology, surveillance, prevention, food and water safety, risk analysis (including gender-associated dimensions of risk), social and behavior change, global health diplomacy, and One Health programming and education.

There are several aspects of STOP Spillover that are distinctive and that build on previous One Health initiatives:

  • First, we’re working in Africa and Asia at the interfaces where viruses are most likely to make the jump from animals to humans.
  • Second, we’re focused on getting to the root causes of viral spillover by understanding the complex drivers, such as environmental and climate changes and cultural, gender, socioeconomic, demographic, and political factors, including agricultural intensification and wildlife trading.
  • Third, we’re prioritizing strengthening the capacity of country-level stakeholders to understand, analyze, and communicate risk associated with zoonotic viral spillover. We believe that knowing what to do to reduce risks of viral spillover is not enough – we must also institutionalize that knowledge in local communities and governments.

This work will be done through equitable partnerships with local communities and institutions and by drawing on the expertise of Country Teams in each of the project’s priority countries. These teams will be supported by the Tufts University Consortium, which will offer technical assistance, tools, and mentorship to decrease the risk of zoonotic viral spillover, amplification, and spread.

More than 70 percent of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases originate from animals, and some of those pathogens shared with humans can cause outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics that may leave indelible marks on our societies like the global COVID-19 crisis. Through projects like STOP Spillover, we can strengthen country-level One Health capacity to address the drivers of spillover and advance global health security.

The next pandemic and the next viral spillover from animals to humans are not inevitable; they can be prevented if we understand the risks and act.

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