Several low- and middle-income countries are confronted with the challenge of quickly and effectively diagnosing dangerous diseases that can spread from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases), such as Ebola. We use nuclear-derived techniques to help these countries rapidly detect such diseases, thereby contributing to preventing their spread. 

Outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola, highly pathogenic avian influenza, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley fever, have a major human, social and economic impact on low- and middle-income countries.  

As human populations grow and spread into previously isolated environments, more and more people come into contact with formerly untouched wildlife and their diseases. Experts predict that in the future, outbreaks of current and new zoonotic diseases could be more diverse and even more severe than those the world has faced so far.

To help limit the spread of such diseases, their early and rapid detection in animals and wildlife is critical. Nuclear-derived techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, are important tools in rapidly and efficiently identifying and characterizing such diseases.

The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), provides assistance to Member States on the use of such nuclear-derived techniques. This includes the transfer and application of these technologies, as well as the reinforcement of national and regional networks to share epidemiological information faster and more efficiently, and to ensure national preparedness in the long run.

While nuclear-derived techniques are the cutting edge in detecting such dangerous infectious diseases, the prerequisite for using them is to learn and adopt adequate protective measures. For this reason, we also run training courses for scientists, veterinarians and field workers on how to safely undertake diagnostic tests on animals while protecting themselves against zoonotic diseases. We also make available emergency equipment on request (including personal protection equipment and biohazard sampling cases) as part of its immediate response.

Through its Peaceful Uses Initiative, the IAEA also mobilizes extra-budgetary contributions to support technical cooperation in the use of nuclear applications to combat infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika.