Dr. Fauci addresses AVMA conference attendees

September 10, 2020

Closing the AVMA virtual conference late last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci updated attendees about COVID-19 and thanked them for the work they do to promote animal and human health.

When Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, recorded his keynote speech on August 5 for the American Veterinary Medical Association Virtual Convention, there were nearly 19 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 707,000 deaths worldwide. Today, the global case count is nearly 28 million and the worldwide death toll 900,000.

Pandemic update

COVID-19 is unique among viruses, Dr. Fauci said, because it is associated with such a wide spectrum of disease. “You go from no disease at all in up to 40% to 45% of (infected) individuals to those who actually have severe enough disease to die,” he said. “This is a very unusual situation.”

Two medications—remdesivir and dexamethasone—have “been shown clearly in clinical trials to be effective in advanced disease.” Investigational therapeutics include antivirals, blood-derived products such as convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin, monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, and immunomodulators. Anticoagulants are being tested as adjunct therapy as well.

Dr. Fauci discussed the 3 major categories of vaccine platforms currently being tested for COVID-19: nucleic acid, viral vector, and protein subunit vaccines. Three of the vaccines entered phase 3 clinical studies at the end July.

Based on the preliminary data, he is “cautiously optimistic” that a safe and effective vaccine will be approved by early 2021 and that adequate doses will be available throughout the year.

One Health

Dr. Fauci then reflected on the important role that animals and the veterinary profession play in understanding zoonotic diseases. He referenced a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine in which mRNA vaccination in nonhuman primates was shown to reduce viral replication in the the lungs as well as in the upper airway, a finding with “very important implications for the transmissibility of the virus,” he said.

To close his address, Dr. Fauci gave a “shout-out” to One Health. Emerging and re-emerging zoonotic pathogens are truly a zoonotic challenge, he said, with 70% to 75% of all new infections emerging from an animal host. “I want to thank all of the [attendees] for their part in taking care of the health of the United States by studying animals,” he concluded.

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