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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia Researchers Estimate Total Viruses in Mammals

Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health estimate that there is a minimum of 320,000 viruses in mammals awaiting discovery. Collecting evidence of these viruses, or even a majority of them, could provide information critical to early detection and mitigation of disease outbreaks in humans. This undertaking would cost approximately $6.3 billion, or $1.4 billion if limited to 85 percent of total viral diversity – a fraction of the economic impact of a major pandemic like SARS. Close to 70 percent of emerging viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS, West Nile, Ebola, SARS, and influenza, are zoonoses – infections of animals that cross into humans. Yet until now, there has been no good estimate of the actual number of viruses that exist in any wildlife species.