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Efforts to Mitigate Pandemic Risk: Enhanced Surveillance of Influenza A Viruses in Southeast Asia

 

The threat of a potential pandemic from emerging strains of Influenza A Viruses (IAV) is a serious concern, especially in regions where different species frequently interact, such as Southeast Asia. The close quarters of humans, pigs, and poultry in these regions notably amplify the risk of zoonotic transmission. The lack of ample surveillance resources in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) further accentuates this risk, underscoring the need for focused strategies.

Birds are the primary hosts of avian IAVs, but sustained transmission to humans is relatively limited. Pigs, however, serve as bridge hosts, making human transmission more plausible. Recent findings, like the swine flu virus discovered in China, underscore the necessity for heightened surveillance.

Vysnova, in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Lao National Animal Health Laboratory, is providing assistance to NAMRU-2 in this matter. The collaboration conducted 46 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and focus groups with animal farmers and workers in two provinces in Northern Laos. A qualitative analysis of these interviews, currently being undertaken by LSHTM, is expected to yield a first draft manuscript by July’s end of 2023.

In tandem, over 200 cross-sectional surveys have been completed in the same provinces, with our team collecting 500 swabs and 390 serum samples from slaughterhouses. Starting from July 2023, the team will further analyze these samples, aiming to identify the risks linked with novel and emerging influenza strains such as G4 EA H1N1, H7N9, H5N1, and other potential variants associated with livestock production systems in the Lower Mekong sub-region.

These successes are set to bolster NAMRU-2’s strides in enhancing our comprehension of IAV dynamics and in devising efficacious surveillance strategies to curb the risks.