UofG joins Lancet Commission on Prevention of Viral Spillover

Published: 11 October 2023

A global team of experts, including Professor Sarah Cleaveland from the University of Glasgow, are to design an action plan on how to reduce the risks of virus transmission between animals and humans – the origin of most pandemics.

A global team of experts, including Professor Sarah Cleaveland from the University of Glasgow, are to design an action plan on how to reduce the risks of virus transmission between animals and humans – the origin of most pandemics.


The Lancet-Preventing Pandemics at the Source Commission on Prevention of Viral Spillover will examine and provide guidance on policy, practice, research and law to address viral spillover threats and lessen the risk of future pandemics.

The Commission, convened by The Lancet and the Coalition for Preventing Pandemics at the Source, is the most ambitious, diverse and global expert body dedicated to addressing this vital area. The team of global experts include Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow Professor of Comparative Epidemiology, a world-renowned expert on the rabies virus.

Studies have shown that the spillover of pathogens is exacerbated by livestock practices, wildlife hunting and trade, and land-use change such as deforestation. Climate change is also shrinking habitats and forcing animals to migrate to new places, creating opportunities for pathogens to enter new hosts.

However, until now, little has been done to tackle the challenge of developing a global action plan to pinpoint what can be done to prevent the domino effects that lead to a regional epidemic or a pandemic. The Commission will conduct original research and pull from the latest science and examples on the ground of how spillover prevention measures can merge with other considerations — such as food security and healthcare — to help to prevent pandemics. The goal of the Commission is to draw global attention to the topic and deliver a major report on viral spillover prevention in two-three years.

Professor Cleaveland said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute the enormous challenge posed by the Lancet Commission in finding ways to prevent pandemic threats at source.  We have some understanding of the mechanisms of spillover transmission of viruses from animal reservoirs to people, and this would be a key target for interventions.  But a lot of work is going to be needed to determine what interventions might be effective and how these could best be implemented.”

“In addressing these challenges, we will need to draw on insights from many different disciplines, including ecology, virology, human and animal health, economics, politics and sociology.  The interdisciplinary networks and structures that have been established at the University are already providing great opportunities for exchange of ideas around this.”

Professor Cleaveland is part of a team of researchers at the University of Glasgow’s School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine researching planetary health, with the aim of understanding how environmental changes affect the health of humans, animals and ecosystems. Through this work, which is carried out in collaboration with a range of international partners, the team seek to find and evaluate new ways to mitigate threats, including emerging diseases. Their work also focuses on global sustainable development – a key research theme of the University’s Advanced Research Centre (ARC) – emphasising Glasgow's commitment to the climate-change agenda and broader concerns around sustainability. 

The Lancet-PPATS Commission on Prevention of Viral Spillover is made up of 28 experts from a wide range of disciplines, including epidemiology, microbiology, ecology, human medicine, veterinary medicine, One Health, food systems management, anthropology, behaviour, economics policy, and working with Indigenous knowledge systems. With balance between genders and the Global North and South, the Commission members will maintain a constant focus on equity in developing prevention strategies.

The Commission will work with input from many other experts to address the following objectives:

  • Evaluate and synthesize the evidence on the drivers of viral spillovers
  • Identify and evaluate strategies and interventions to prevent viral spillovers
  • Provide recommendations for research investigating viral spillovers
  • Examine the equity benefits of viral spillover prevention
  • Assess the co-benefits and trade-offs of viral spillover prevention
  • Identify social, economic, and political challenges and opportunities for implementing viral spillover prevention
  • Develop recommendations for viral spillover prevention that can be adopted and adapted by governments and other stakeholders.

The Commission will assess evidence on spillover prevention strategies, including curbing deforestation and forest degradation, especially in tropical and subtropical forests, improving domestic animal health, strengthening veterinary care and biosafety in animal husbandry. The Commission will also work to ensure that risks from the trade and consumption of wildlife — an essential source of protein and income for some communities — are addressed, enhance primary healthcare and alternative livelihoods for communities living close to wildlife and enhance integrated surveillance for zoonotic viruses at the interface between humans, domestic animals and wildlife.

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831


First published: 11 October 2023

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