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Feds extend program that focuses on viruses transmitted from animals to humans, amid coronavirus

The program continues through an extended contract purportedly worth $2.26 million

Vendor sells bats at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island
(RONNY ADOLOF BUOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Updated: April 1, 2020 - 9:10am

The federal government is extending a program that provides emergency support to countries responding to diseases transmitted from animals to humans – how the coronavirus is believed to have started in China. 

The program, known as PREDICT, operates under the U.S. Agency of International Development’s Emerging Pandemic Threats project, through an extended contract worth $2.26 million, according to U.S. officials. 

PREDICT, which starting Wednesday will be extended for another six months, includes technical support for the early detection of the coronavirus, officials also said. 

China officials say the virus has been traced to an open food market that sells bats and was transmitted in late-2019.

The virus, also known as COVID-19,  has so far killed more than 42,000 people worldwide. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that none of us are immune to viruses that emerge from animals to infect people,” said Christine K. Johnson, professor of epidemiology at UC Davis and director of the PREDICT project. 

PREDICT was formed in 2009 and now has roughly 7,000 trained professionals working on viruses transmitted from animals to humans, known as zoonotic diseases.

The $2.26 million extended contract will allow PREDICT to continue to provide technical expertise to support the detection of the novel coronavirus – whose scientific name is SARS CoV-2 – in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

USAID financed two five-year cycle contracts with PREDICT starting in September 2009 until September 2019, and then extended PREDICT's contract for another six months until March 31, 2020. This new extension highlights the value of PREDICT's continued work.  

“The PREDICT-trained labs and networks have been key for detection of initial cases in their countries,” said PREDICT professor Tracey Goldstein, who’s also an associate director of the UC Davis One Health Institute.