USDA APHIS | Researchers put the finishing touches on a biosecurity tool to help prevent and minimize future pandemics

Three veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently traveled to the West Coast to gather feedback on a project funded under the $300 million provision of the American Rescue Plan Act to track and monitor SARS-CoV-2 in susceptible animals.

During the visit, the team put the finishing touches on a biosecurity tool for the serological study of zoos and aquariums to help APHIS achieve its goal of creating an early warning system for potentially prevent or limit the next zoonotic disease outbreak or global pandemic.

“The biosecurity tool is a comprehensive assessment of each facility’s features and practices used to protect their guests, workers and animals from SARS-CoV-2,” said public health veterinarian Dr. Steven Rekant. “It is important to understand how humans, animals and environments depend on each other, this tool helps us recognize how they interact together.”

The APHIS team met with experts to gather information on lessons learned in SARS-CoV-2 biosecurity and best practices in zoos and aquariums. They collected feedback from staff at various levels, from management to veterinarians to handlers who interact with the animals on a daily basis, which will help them refine the research data for the final product.

“I learned something from everyone we spoke to, they are all experts in their own field,” said Dr. Stephanie Wire, project leader, serological study of zoos and aquariums. “They are very knowledgeable about breeding practices and their needs – I find that fascinating.”

The serological study of zoos and aquariums consists of three parts: the first is a serological study, which consists of acquiring samples of species in zoos and aquariums that have been collected before and since the start of the pandemic, which can be serum, plasma or blood. samples; the second is a biosecurity assessment, which is a comprehensive assessment of the features and practices of facilities used to protect guests, workers, and animals from SARS-CoV-2; the third is to sample peridomestic animals, which are free-ranging wild animals that live in and around zoos, such as pests like mice, rats and raccoons, to better understand their potential role in transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

The full range of species susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 is currently unknown, however, studies such as this strive to identify animals susceptible to infection. Scientists estimate that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animals. APHIS is uniquely positioned for this work because of its scientific expertise in animal health and animal disease, including foreign animal disease outbreak preparedness and response.

While experts are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to humans is low.

“APHIS is uniquely positioned to respond in this way, we are very passionate and dedicated to animal health and welfare,” said Dr. Jessica Siegal-Willott, Senior Veterinarian, Zoological Species Specialist. “This study really hits on the One Health side of things.”

Groups from the human, animal and environmental health communities increasingly work together when One Health issues arise. APHIS, alongside its One Health partners, is working together to leverage specific skills, knowledge, perspectives and experiences to strengthen its understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and improve its ability to detect diseases more early.

APHIS is currently conducting several projects under the American Rescue Plan Act aimed at understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 virus behaves in different animals, how it travels between animals and humans, and what we and our public health partners can do to interrupt the chain of transmission. APHIS’ U.S. Rescue Plan Strategic Framework outlines how the agency focuses its efforts to prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to SARS-CoV-2 in animals, as well as other emerging diseases that could constitute a threat to humans and animals.

As the organization expands and strengthens its capabilities to address the immediate threat of SARS-CoV-2, APHIS specialists are building critical capabilities to address future emerging threats and prevent or limit any future pandemics, to protect the health and welfare of the country’s animals. as it has done for over 50 years.

“It’s brand new and kind of pioneering,” Wire said. “I am only a small part of this whole enterprise, but all we can contribute to the mitigation efforts. It’s just awesome.”

USDA APHIS veterinarians finalize biosecurity tool to prevent and minimize future pandemics

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarians, Dr. Stephanie Wire, project leader, serological study of zoos and aquariums; Dr. Jessica Siegal-Willott, Senior Veterinarian, Zoological Species Specialist; and public health veterinarian Dr. Steven Rekant recently traveled to the West Coast to gather feedback on the American Rescue Plan Act-funded zoo and aquarium serology study project, which includes a provision of $300 million to conduct SARS tracking and surveillance. -CoV-2 in susceptible animals. APHIS is currently conducting several projects under the American Rescue Plan Act aimed at understanding how SARS-CoV-2 behaves in different animals, how it travels between animals and humans, and what we and our partners public health can do to interrupt the chain of transmission. APHIS’ U.S. Rescue Plan Strategic Framework outlines how the agency focuses its efforts to prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to SARS-CoV-2 in animals, as well as other emerging diseases that could constitute a threat to humans, animals and the environment.

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