The Need for Expanded Global Efforts to Mitigate Viral Threats: Lessons from the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Director, Global Virus Network
There is a critical gap between current surveillance efforts and the implementation of clinical responses, caused primarily by the lack of international coordination for research on viral diseases and the shortage of medical virologists who will react once surveillance efforts uncover a problem. This gap jeopardizes the ability to deliver health services and threatens economies, supply chains, medical resources, and national and international security. Today, there is no single, recognized international organization empowered to speak with authority on all human viruses, though the need for such an organization has increased in recent decades. There are also serious deficiencies in training programs for research in medical virology, which threatens our future capacity to control viral epidemics. Finally, there is no mechanism to ensure that new viral threats are met with a sophisticated, international response to identify the virus, develop new diagnostics, initiate the path to discovery of treatments or vaccines, and advise about the best mitigation strategies. To meet this need, the Global Virus Network (GVN) (http://www.ihv.org/programs/gvn.html), which is equipped with globally connected information technology enabling rapid communication between participants, has been formed (Nature, 2011). The GVN exemplifies the type of effort needed to mitigate the global threat of infectious diseases (see Figure 1).