Researchers seek more attention for diseases from animals

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

July 7, 2020, 1:06 pm

<p>(<em>Logo grabbed from National Academy of Science and Technology Facebook page</em>)</p>

(Logo grabbed from National Academy of Science and Technology Facebook page)

MANILA -- At least three researchers on Monday expressed hope that more attention would be given to researches on diseases or viruses that humans could get from animals.

In a virtual forum organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), researchers Adrian Ybañez, Remil Galang, and Melbourne Talactac said there are diseases that they hope the government could allot more funding.

"There are some diseases that are emerging. There is not enough funding if you're trying to boost our system compared to other countries," Ybañez said.

The Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) funding, he said, has its priorities, and diseases from animals seem to be at the bottom of the priority list.

There are diseases that one could get from cats, Ybañez said, adding that he had already sent proposals on this several times.

"We are trying to explore emerging diseases, and this is challenging for the scientists as we have to convince many people," he said.

Galang, on the other hand, noted the disease that one could get from fleas.

This is a type of disease that usually gets ignored, he added. "We could treat this as among the neglected diseases."

Both Ybañez and Galang acknowledged that the government has to provide funding for other diseases and needs to prioritize them as well.

Talactac, meanwhile, emphasized that research on diseases from animals, such as the African swine fever (ASF), needs attention before the virus spreads.

DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña told the Philippine News Agency that the researchers' comments are a good reminder, but proposals will still have to go through the evaluation process and will have to compete with other research proposals.

"It will really depend on the statistics available. Do statistics show that there is a relatively high occurrence of these cases relative to other diseases?" dela Peña said.

He added that in the past, the DOST is proposal driven, unlike now that it announces researches that it wants to be done.

In a message to the PNA, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development director Jaime Montoya said there are other diseases that he thinks are more important.

"There are other diseases which I think are more important than diseases carried by domesticated animals like cats. Rabies, which still causes death in the Philippines, may warrant more support, but more on operational studies on how to conduct massive immunization of dogs to bring down the cases of rabies," Montoya said.

He added that as far as basic research is concerned, rabies is already well-studied.

"Zoonotic viruses of pandemic potential such as SARS COV2 which causes Covid-19 will be the research areas that the (upcoming) Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (would cater to,)" Montoya said. (PNA