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Scientists have a new tool to predict the next pandemic virus

How to predict the next novel coronavirus

Primates and livestock explore the grounds outside a residence in Ghana.
Primates and livestock explore the grounds outside a residence in Ghana.
Terra Kelly, UC Davis

Scientists have already started to research what virus could cause the next pandemic for humans, and there are several candidates already.

Scientists predict the next COVID-19

Researchers at the the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) recently created a new tool that measures the risk of new animal viruses that could hurt humans.

The tool — called SpillOver — ranks each potential virus by a risk score to humans based on the host, environment and virus strength.

  • Right now, “Coronavirus 229E (Bat strain)” has the highest risk score — 81 out of 155. This virus appears to be from “the same viral family as SARS-CoV-2 and infects bats in Africa,” according to Fox News.
  • A number of the viruses listed on the tool appear to be bat strains, which is yet another sign of how coronavirus spread from bats.

Of course, a number of zoonotic viruses appear at the top of the list (when you change the filter). These viruses already exist in the world — Ebola and hantavirus are two of the more common ones that appear on this list. Per Fox News, zoonotic viruses have already passed from animals to humans. So these are already known and likely circulating out there.

Why the virus tool was made

The researchers said in a statement that the tool was created to help world leaders predict what could happen next.

  • Jonna Mazet, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement: “This tool is intended to start a global conversation that will allow us to go far beyond how we thought about ranking viruses in the past and allow real-time scientific collaboration to identify new threats early. SpillOver can help advance our understanding of viral health threats and enable us to act to reduce the risk of spillover before pandemics can catch fire.”