Workshop 3

INGSA and NASEM successfully held the first in-person workshop in Bangkok, Thailand from September 9 to 11, 2022. This workshop’s theme was “Countering Zoonotic Spillover of High Consequence Pathogens: How can we do it?”, and it aimed to develop and improve the guidebook’s framework that was drafted using the outputs from the first two virtual workshops. Summaries of the virtual workshops in May and July can be found here.

On the 9th of September, invited participants from the Southeast Asian regions as well as the project committee members visited Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the National Institute of Health (NIH). This visit was officiated by Dr. Sophon Iamsirsithavorn, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Disease Control (DDC). Following that, Dr. Soawapak Hinjoy, Director of the Office of International Cooperation, gave an overview of the Thai DDC. During the presentations, the project participants were able to learn and ask questions about some of the resources Thailand is utilizing and intergovernmental networks officials created to combat zoonotic spillover. In the second part of the visit, governmental officials and researchers explained Thailand’s One Health operating procedures for disease outbreak control localy and in the region, as well as showcasing the new biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory in the NIH. The engagement of governmental officials during the visit was a testament to the success of connecting the science and policy sectors. (attached detailed agenda of the visit.)

This workshop was chaired by Professor Abhi Veerakumarasivam and Professor Meghan F. Davis and began with keynote presentations on leading issues and regional perspectives of zoonotic spillover. The keynotes were delivered by two NASEM project committee members: Dr. Raina Plowright, Professor from Cornell University, and Dr. Dirk Pfeiffer, a Professor from City University of Hong Kong and Royal Veterinary College, London. Existing guidelines and frameworks for preventing and mitigating zoonotic spillover were also highlighted and presented in this session: (1) UNEP – ILRI – CGIAR: Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, by Dr. Hung Nguyen-Viet and Dr. Delia Grace Randolph from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), (2) Royal Society Canada: Strengthening a One Health Approach to Emerging Zoonoses, by Dr. Samira Mubareka from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, (3) the ASEAN Strategy for Exotic, Emerging, Re-emerging Diseases and Animal Health Emergencies and a comparison on the guidelines by Professor Nancy Connell from the National Academies of Sciences, (4) new guidelines for reducing the risk of disease spillover events at markets selling wildlife and along the wildlife supply chain, by James Compton from USAID Wildlife TRAPS, TRAFFIC.

The second day of the workshop began with presentations on specific guidebook topics by NASEM project committee members: Professor Jeffery Peterson, Professor Linda Saif, Professor Dominic Travis, and Professor Wondwossen Gebreyes. Their presentations addressed important topics which will be covered in the guidebook: (1) addressing priority pathogens and their reservoirs, (2) cross-sectoral cooperation and communication in the context of One Health, and (3) strategies to overcome barriers and systemic issues in mitigating zoonotic spillover in the region. Participants were then divided into small groups to collaborate on refining and organizing the contents and structure of the guidebook tailored to the cultural and country-specific considerations that are necessary to prevent and mitigate zoonotic spillover in the region. The first breakout session focused on “diverse stakeholders” and strategies for how to engage at key points where humans and animals interact. The second breakout focused on identifying relevant “case examples,” which are events that illustrate successes and challenges to provide context for the guide. The third breakout focused on high-level “barriers and challenges” to exploring and countering spillover (e.g. resource constraints, data sharing, transboundary disease surveillance, laboratory needs, etc.) and a discussion of systemic problems (e.g. governmental/political, cross-cultural communications, financial, legislative/regulatory, etc.) Participants gathered in plenary on the morning of the final day to report on the discussions during the breakout sessions.

Overall, the group is invested in seeing the project through to completion of the guidebook and ensuring that  evidence-based and culturally relevant practices are available to those working to combat zoonotic spillover in the region. The in-person setting created a sense of community where diverse opinions, experiences, and challenges could be shared about the myriad of animal-human interfaces in the region. The group will meet again in November 2022 in Singapore to meet with additional local, national, and regional stakeholders as well as further discuss and design the guidebook.