The Field Museum and the University of Chicago have established the Emerging Pathogens Project to study the evolution of zoonotic pathogens.
The project's goal is to provide in-depth, baseline information on pathogens that appear in animals and could jump to people.
The Field Museum conducted its first field expedition in connection with the project last fall in Malawi, a developing country in southeast Africa with a rapidly growing population. The expedition yielded 1,100 mammal and bird specimens, including the pathogens that live in and on them.
Scientists at the Field Museum and University of Chicago will extract DNA from the animal specimens and the viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens that the animal specimens carry to create an extensive database of animal and pathogen biodiversity. The University of Chicago's Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology will spearhead efforts to identify high-risk pathogens for additional genetic studies.