Tracking pathogens: As COVID-19 taught us, pathogens originating in wildlife endanger human, animal and ecosystem health.  “Tackling illicit wildlife trafficking is key to preventing future pandemics stemming from zoonotic pathogens.” (UNODC nd).  Plant disease pathogens associated with illicit timber also place entire ecosystems at risk; the potential devastation can be seen in the history of chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease. In addition, the presence and genomic signature of specific pathogens can provide additional information about the origin and shipping of contraband.

Global health agencies and organizations, while concerned about the impact of the illegal wildlife trade on pathogen spread, are generally not experienced in enforcement or interdiction. Nor do they have ready access to trafficked samples. Through CEFS our enforcement or interdiction experts can directly interact with experts who can detect and characterize pathogens in wildlife shipments using genomic technology. Together with members from One Health and in transmission of respiratory diseases like flu and COVID-19, we will detect and monitor pathogens in illicit wildlife shipments for the spread of known pathogens; to predict and prevent threats to human, animal, and timber health; and use pathogens as an additional tool in localization of contraband.