Rapid response screening for emerging zoonotic pathogens, barriers and opportunities : A study for enhanced preparedness of the Netherlands

Streng, Kiki; de Best, Pauline A.; Timen, Aura; Koopmans, Marion P.G.; van der Poel, Wim H.M.; Sikkema, Reina S.


Outbreaks of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) require rapid identification of potential reservoir hosts and mapping disease spread in these hosts to inform risk assessment and adequate control measures. Animals are often understudied when a novel EID is detected in humans and acquisition of animal samples is hampered by practical, ethical, and legal barriers, of which there is currently no clear overview. Therefore, the three aims of this study are (1) to map potentially available collections of animal samples, (2) to assess possibilities and barriers for reuse of these samples and (3) to assess possibilities and barriers for active animal and environmental sampling in the Netherlands. Methods: A literature search was performed to identify ongoing sampling activities and opportunities for reuse or active sampling. Semi-structured interviews with stakeholder organizations were conducted to gain further insight into the three research questions. Results: Various sample collections of surveillance, diagnostic and research activities exist in the Netherlands. Sample size, coverage, storage methods and type of samples collected differs per animal species which influences reuse suitability. Organizations are more likely to share samples, for reuse in outbreak investigations, when they have a pre-existing relationship with the requesting institute. Identified barriers for sharing were, among others, unfamiliarity with legislation and unsuitable data management systems. Active sampling of animals or the environment is possible through several routes. Related barriers are acquiring approval from animal- or property owners, conflicts with anonymization, and time needed to acquire ethical approval. Conclusion: The animal sample collections identified would be very valuable for use in outbreak investigations. Barriers for sharing may be overcome by increasing familiarity with legislation, building (international) sharing networks and agreements before crises occur and developing systems for sample registration and biobanking. Proactive setting up of ethical approvals will allow for rapid animal sample collection to identify EID hosts and potential spillovers.