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EcoHealth Alliance is a non-governmental organization which protects the people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases. The nonprofit is focused on research that aims to prevent pandemics and promote conservation in hotspot regions worldwide.
|Focus||Pandemic prevention, Scientific research, One Health, Conservation|
|Dr. Peter Daszak, President|
EcoHealth Alliance focuses on diseases caused by deforestation and increased interaction between humans and wildlife. The organization has researched the emergence of diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, and Ebola virus.
EcoHealth Alliance also advises World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) also on global wildlife trade, on threats of disease and environmental damage posed by these.
EcoHealth Alliance was formed by the merger of The Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in 2010.
Founded under the name Wildlife Preservation Trust International in 1971 by British naturalist, author, and television personality Gerald Durrell, it became The Wildlife Trust in 1999. In the fall of 2010, the organization changed its name to EcoHealth Alliance. The rebrand reflected a change in the organization's focus, moving from solely a conservation nonprofit which focused mainly on the captive breeding of endangered species, to an environmental health organization with its foundation in conservation.
Scientists and collaborators from the organization coined the term ‘conservation medicine’ and held the first professional conservation medicine meeting to define the field in 1996. They went on to organize and publish the first edited volume on the field through Oxford University Press in 2002—Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice.
In February 2008, EcoHealth Alliance published a paper in Nature entitled “Global trends in emerging infectious diseases” which featured the first rendition of a global disease hotspot map. Using epidemiological, social, and environmental data from the past 50 years, the map outlined regions of the globe most at risk for emergent disease threats.
In April 2020 amid the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, the NIH ordered EcoHealth Alliance to cease spending the remaining $369,819 from its current NIH grant at the request of the Trump administration due to their bat research relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located near the epicenter of the SARS-CoV-2. The cancelled grant was supposed to run through 2024. In August 2020, The EcoHealth Alliance secured a $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
EcoHealth Alliance partners with USAID on the PREDICT subset of USAID's EPT (Emerging Pandemic Threats) program. PREDICT seeks to identify which emerging infectious diseases are of the greatest risk to human health. Many of EcoHealth Alliance's international collaborations with in-country organizations and institutions fall under the PREDICT umbrella. Scientists in the field collect samples from local fauna in order to track the spread of potential harmful pathogens and to stop them from becoming outbreaks. Scientists also train local technicians and veterinarians in animal sampling and information gathering.
Active Countries: Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam
IDEEAL (Infectious Disease Emergence and Economics of Altered Landscapes Program) seeks to study the impact deforestation and land-use change have in Sabah, Malaysia in regards to increased risk of zoonoses. This work is centered in particular around the local palm oil industry. The project also suggests sustainable alternatives to large-scale deforestation to the country's business leaders and its policy-makers. The program is based at the Development Health Research Unit (DHRU) in Malaysia, cofounded with the Malaysian University of Sabah.
Rift Valley Fever VirusEdit
Rift Valley fever (RVFV) has been called “the next West Nile virus” and has already wreaked havoc on the livestock industry in sub-Saharan Africa where it is most prominent. EcoHealth Alliance is working in South Africa to better predict outbreaks by studying the impact of environment and human behavior in regards to the mosquito-spread virus. EcoHealth Alliance is also already at work with policymakers on a plan should RVFV spread to the United States.
A growing body of research indicates that bats are an important factor in both ecosystem health, and disease emergence. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for the high number of zoonoses that have come from bat populations in recent decades. One group of researchers hypothesized “that flight, a factor common to all bats but to no other mammals, provides an intensive selective force for coexistence with viral parasites through a daily cycle that elevates metabolism and body temperature analogous to the febrile response in other mammals. On an evolutionary scale, this host-virus interaction might have resulted in the large diversity of zoonotic viruses in bats, possibly through bat viruses adapting to be more tolerant of the fever response and less virulent to their natural hosts.” 
Project Deep ForestEdit
According to the FAO, roughly 18 million acres of forest are lost every year due to deforestation, an area roughly the size of Panama. Increased contact between humans and the animal species whose habitat is being destroyed has led to increases in zoonotic disease. EcoHealth Alliance scientists are testing species for pathogens in areas with very little, moderate, and complete deforestation in order to track potential outbreaks. This data is used to promote the preservation of natural lands and diminish the devastating effects of land-use change.
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