WHO unveils new pandemic pathogen sleuth squad

The World Health Organization unveils a proposed team of scientists tasked with looking at new pathogens and preventing future pandemics — plus reviving the stalled probe into COVID-19’s origins.

The group of 26 experts will be charged with producing a new global framework for studies into the origins of emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential. Their remit includes SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

Besides the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of high-risk pathogens have appeared or reappeared in recent years, including MERS, bird flu viruses, Lassa, Marburg and Ebola.

The WHO announced earlier this year that it would set up a Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).

“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” says WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise.

“We are very pleased with the caliber of experts selected for SAGO from around the world, and look forward to working with them to make the world safer.”

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