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The sentinels

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Science  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6541, pp. 450-455
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6541.450

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Summary

A pathogen research collection in Manaus, Brazil, is on the front lines of the search for animal diseases that could spill over and infect humans—and perhaps cause the next pandemic. New diseases can come from anywhere, but many researchers suspect tropical rainforests, with their staggering biodiversity, are the most likely cradle of dangerous new pathogens. By monitoring local animal populations and human patients, the researchers hope to head off zoonoses—diseases that leap from animals to humans—before they spiral out of control. Their work highlights the importance of curbing human activities that boost the risk of spillover, such as deforestation. It could also guide surveillance for new and rare diseases in hospitals, which would enable health workers to respond fast if a rainforest virus or parasite became a wider threat.

  • This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

    Photography and reporting from Manaus, Brazil, by Dado Galdieri of Hilaea Media

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