Australia’s leading scientific organisation has called for a boost to its funding on virus research and vaccine manufacturing capabilities in a bid to future-proof the country from pandemics.
In a new report, the health agency outlined 20 recommendations for what Australia would need to do to strengthen pandemic preparedness, following on from the experiences of COVID-19.
One of the recommendations included improving research into five virus families that have the greatest potential to become future pandemics.
Australia’s leading scientific organisation has called for a boost to virus research and vaccine manufacturing capabilities in a bid to future-proof the country from pandemics
Scientists also identified a need to diversify the types of vaccines made in Australia to be better prepared.
‘The absence of manufacturing capabilities across diverse vaccine technologies reduces Australia’s capability to produce vaccines onshore for an emergent viral threat,’ the report said.
‘Australian companies face barriers, such as high input costs and small population for clinical trial enrolments.’
The CSIRO report also called for an expansion of screening for commercially available antiviral medications that could be used as treatments, along with the creation of a central database of therapeutics.
The recommendations in the report came following discussions with more than 140 experts across industry, research and government areas.
The findings of the report also identified inconsistencies with diagnostic requirements, which needed to be diversified due to the increased demands on labs during pandemics.
A lack of national coordination on genomic analysis was also identified, with calls to set up a national authority, as well as developing national data standards.
Orthomyxoviridae – Influenza (transmitted by animals and humans)
Highly infectious as transmission can occur in humans by aerosols and droplets.217. Viruses in this family in particular are pre-disposed to quickly and efficiently mutate to generate new strains.218. Viruses in this family have historically caused epidemics and pandemics in humans.
Paramyxoviridae – Nipah virus infection, Hendra virus disease (transmitted by animals and humans)
Largely respiratory viruses transmitted by aerosols and contaminated surfaces. Historically high morbidity and mortality in humans. Hendra virus disease currently poses a risk of infection from horses in north-eastern parts of Australia. New variants of Hendra virus have been identified in host animals with greater geographic distribution.
Phenuiviridae – Rift Valley fever (transmitted by arthropods and human contact via blood and organs)
Highly pathogenic in humans, animals and plants. Can be challenging to control transmission given the range of arthropod vectors.
Togaviridae/Alphaviruses – Chikungunya fever, Ross River fever, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis (transmitted by arthropods, particularly blood-sucking species)
Infections are seasonal and are acquired in endemic areas. Ross River fever is the most common insect-borne viral disease in Australia.
In a new report, the CSIRO outlined 20 recommendations for what Australia would need to do to strengthen pandemic preparedness
Victoria: 2950 cases, 18 deaths, 337 in hospital with 22 in ICU
NSW: 4271 cases, 37 deaths, 1834 in hospital with 40 in ICU
QLD: 2404 cases, 18 deaths, 319 in hospital with 10 in ICU
WA: 1277 cases, one death, 234 in hospital with five in ICU
SA: 685 cases, three deaths, 129 in hospital with seven in ICU
Tasmania: 259 cases, no deaths, 30 in hospital with one in ICU
ACT: 202 cases, no deaths, 100 in hospital with one in ICU
NT: 116 cases, no deaths, 21 in hospital with none in ICU.
‘Australia faces data sharing limitations due to the varying governance of health systems within and across jurisdictions,’ the report said.
‘This restricts policy decisions being made in a timely and well-informed manner, especially during pandemics.’
The CSIRO said the report findings were critical, given the rise in viral disease outbreaks in the past century.
‘On average, two novel viruses are appearing in humans each year, and the proportion that give rise to larger outbreaks is growing,’ the report said.
‘The increasing occurrence of virus spill-over from animal populations over the last 100 years has largely been driven by environmental destruction, climate change, urbanisation, human encroachment on natural habitats, and increased global trade and travel.’
The release of the report comes after Australia surpassed 10 million total COVID cases.
Monday saw a further 8704 cases identified nationally, with 11 deaths.
National cabinet is set to discuss on Wednesday a proposal to lower the mandatory isolation requirements for people with COVID-19 from seven to five days.
The Health Services Union on Tuesday called for the federal government to scrap the mandatory isolation period altogether.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group