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Reshaping surveillance for infectious diseases: less chasing of pathogens and more monitoring of drivers

Drewe, J A; George, J; Häsler, B


J A Drewe

J George

B Häsler


Julian Drewe


Animal health surveillance, despite its name, tends to focus on looking for disease. Often this involves searching for cases of infection with known pathogens ('pathogen chasing'). Such an approach is both resource intensive and limited by the requirement for prior knowledge of disease likelihood. In this paper, the authors propose the gradual reshaping of surveillance towards the systems level, focusing on the processes ('drivers') that promote disease or health, rather than on the presence or absence of specific pathogens. Examples of relevant drivers include land-use change, increasing global interconnectedness, and finance and capital flows. Importantly, the authors suggest that surveillance should focus on detecting changes in patterns or quantities associated with such drivers. This would generate systems-level, risk-based surveillance information to identify areas where additional attention may be needed, and, over time, inform the implementation of prevention efforts. The collection, integration and analysis of data on drivers is likely to require investment in improving data infrastructures. A period of overlap would allow the two systems (traditional surveillance and driver monitoring) to be compared and calibrated. This would also lead to a better understanding of the drivers and their linkages, and thereby generate new knowledge that can improve surveillance and inform mitigation efforts. Since surveillance of drivers may give signals when changes are occurring, which could act as alerts and enable targeted mitigation, this might even enable disease to be prevented before it happens by directly intervening in the drivers themselves. Such surveillance focused on the drivers could be expected to bring additional benefits, since the same drivers promote multiple diseases. Further, focusing on drivers rather than pathogens should enable control of currently unknown diseases, making this approach particularly timely, given the increasing risk of emergence of new diseases.


Drewe, J. A., George, J., & Häsler, B. (2023). Reshaping surveillance for infectious diseases: less chasing of pathogens and more monitoring of drivers. Scientific and Technical Review, 42, 137-148.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2023
Online Publication Date May 25, 2023
Publication Date May 25, 2023
Deposit Date May 30, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2023
Journal Scientific and Technical Review
Publisher World Organisation for Animal Health
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Pages 137-148


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