The University of Notre Dame launched the first phase of the Remote Emerging Disease Intelligence NETwork (REDI-NET), an initiative that aims to address surveillance needs to detect, predict, and contain emerging infectious diseases of human health relevance in near-real time.
The REDI-NET consortium joins a global effort to enhance public health by improving infectious disease surveillance, enacting risk prediction of emerging pathogens, and preparing for potential outbreaks – even future pandemics. Phase I of the initiative will focus on developing a baseline understanding of health risks by natural pathogens in temperate (Florida), tropical forest (Belize), and tropical grassland (Kenya) sites.
REDI-NET teams will collect new surveillance data on ticks, leeches, water, and sediment, which can serve as markers for sources of pathogens leading to disease risks for humans. Researchers will build mathematical models through a database platform to help them visualize risk of emergent pathogens. They hope to expand surveillance to additional sample categories after completing the first phase of the project in April 2022, and plan to increase the number of partners and locations of interest to involve more surveillance sites and countries.
“We want to generate broader information, build up the database, enhance risk models, and have more users of the data,” says Nicole L. Achee, research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Eck Institute for Global Health, who is the lead principal investigator of the REDI-NET. “Our overall intention is not just a matter of generating surveillance data and publishing it; it is about having users go into the database to view near real-time information and model outputs they need to make an informed decision about risk mitigation.”
Current users are the Department of Defense (which is funding the program through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs), and academics. As the initiative evolves, the REDI-NET consortium and user stakeholders are envisioned to expand globally to international governments, research institutions, military and state health officials among others. Users will be informed of trends for a particular pathogen detected in the environment, and will be able to promptly plan or implement appropriate interventions.
“Faster sample processing and verified data outputs leads to more timely and informed responses to emerging infectious disease threats,” Achee said. “Timely and rigorous data is the name of the game.”
As demonstrated by COVID-19, emerging infectious diseases do not respect borders and can quickly span the globe.
“The pandemic has positioned the REDI-NET goals quite clearly: make timely decisions to inform and prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases,” Achee said.
In addition to Achee, other Notre Dame faculty include John P. Grieco, Alex Perkins, and Sean Moore, as well as team members at Notre Dame’s Center for Research Computing. The consortium includes the Navy Medical Research Center, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (Walter Reed Army Institute of Research), Smithsonian Institution, the Belize Vector and Ecology Center, the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, the Mpala Research Centre, George Mason University, and Vectech.
To learn more about the REDI-NET and involved partners, please visit https://redi-net.nd.edu/.
Maria Dahn / Research Program Manager
REDI-NET / University of Notre Dame
This work is supported by the US Army Medical Research and Development Command under Contract No.W81XWH-21-C-0001. The views, opinions and/or findings contained in this report are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by other documentation.