Some of the most punishing pandemic diseases to hit human health come from the wild. A local hunter deep in the rain forest brings down a beast, butchers it, its blood mingling with his own, and a virus is passed.
Enough mingling of the wrong virus over time, and a pandemic is born. Scientists think HIV and then AIDS leached into the human population this way decades ago.
Field biologist Nathan Wolfe is on the hunt for the next viral killers, to stop them before they decimate entire populations. He’s tracking them down in the rainforests of Cameroon, in Malaysia, in China and beyond, and to the blood of hunters who kill wild game.
This hour, On Point: Into Africa, and beyond, with the virus hunters.
Nathan Wolfe joins us from Stanford, California. He is director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, a pandemic warning system which works with more than 100 scientists and staff around the world, including in Cameroon, China, and Malaysia. He is a field biologist and visiting professor of human biology at Stanford University. He has spent more than eight years in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa tracking the movement of viruses.
Joining us from Yaounde, Cameroon, is Matthew LeBreton, ecology coordinator for the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative in Cameroon, where he has been since 2000. He has a staff of roughly 30 that works on multiple sites, collecting blood samples and offering education on how viruses, including HIV, spread.
The Global Viral Forecasting Initiative site offers in-depth descriptions of its work in Cameroon, China, Malaysia, Congo, Madagascar, and Laos, including images from the field. At the bottom of this page is a graphic photo of a blood-soaked hunter and his kill.
“Deep in the Rain Forest, Stalking the Next Pandemic” — a recent profile of Nathan Wolfe in The New York Times.
“The Plague Fighters: Stopping the Next Pandemic Before It Begins” — Wired magazine featured this article on Nathan Wolfe’s work, including photos and video.