The National Institutes of Health (NIH) via the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), announce that is has awarded grants totaling approximately $17 million to 11 research centers to establish the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID). CREID will build a network of multidisciplinary researchers around the world to better understand how viruses and other pathogens make the leap from other living organisms to people. NIAID will provide funding for these activities over the next five years totaling $82 million.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a potent reminder of the devastation that can be wrought when a new virus infects humans for the first time,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci in announcement launching the initiative. “The CREID network will enable early warnings of emerging diseases wherever they occur, which will be critical to rapid responses. The knowledge gained through this research will increase our preparedness for future outbreaks.”
To coordinate research efforts, NIAID is providing a grant to RTI International in Research Triangle Park, NC, in collaboration with Duke University to create the CREID Coordinating Center. This center will support network-wide activities such as data management, outbreak research response and quality control for biospecimens, assays and reagents. It will also administer a pilot research program for early career investigators.
Each research center in CREID will involve collaborations with peer institutions in the U.S. and 28 other countries, with each of the centers focusing their research efforts on a specific region in the world. As an example NIAID said in a press release that in Central and South America, research efforts will focus on arthropod-borne viruses—so called arboviruses—that are responsible for such diseases those that cause Zika virus disease, chikungunya, and dengue fever.
In East and Central Africa, focus pathogens will include Rift Valley fever virus and the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In West Africa, research will include arboviruses,as well as Ebola virus and Lassa virus. In Asia and Southeast Asia, investigators will conduct research on coronaviruses and arboviruses.
In every region, investigators will be poised to study any newly emerging pathogen, dubbed “pathogen X.”
Research projects will include surveillance studies to identify previously unknown causes of febrile illnesses in humans; find the animal sources of viral or other disease-causing pathogens; and determine what genetic or other changes make these pathogens capable of infecting humans. CREID investigators also will develop reagents and diagnostic assays to improve detection of emerging pathogens and study human immune responses to new or emerging infectious agents.
Overall, the breadth of research projects in the CREID network will allow for study of disease spillover in multiple phases of the process: where pathogens first emerge from an animal host; at the borders between wild and more populated areas, where human-to-human transmission occurs; and in urban areas, where epidemic spread can occur.