Ebola Or Bird Flue Virus
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense suffering, with over 6.8 million reported deaths and ongoing long-term symptoms for some.
There are many other viruses that could cause future pandemics, so scientists are proposing an experimental pipeline to identify viruses that have the four properties needed to infect humans.
By detecting these viruses early, new diagnostic tools can be developed to prevent the spread of a new human infection. In addition to better surveillance and health systems, underlying causes of zoonotic-disease emergence such as deforestation, wildlife trade, and climate change need to be addressed. The next pandemic is closer than we think, and we must prepare for it.
The proposed experimental pipeline, as outlined in the Science article, would involve a series of tests to determine whether animal viruses have the four key properties that make them capable of infecting humans. By identifying which viruses pose the highest risk for zoonosis, researchers can quickly roll out diagnostic panels to detect new human infections.
The first property is the ability of the animal virus to enter human cells, which is often the easiest to study. The second property involves the ability of the virus to replicate and exit human cells, which requires interactions with several intracellular host proteins. The third property involves how animal viruses interact with human-innate immunity, beyond the interferon response. Finally, the fourth property is the ability of the virus to overcome pre-existing human adaptive immunity, such as neutralizing antibodies and cytotoxic T cells.
To detect outbreaks at their onset, clinicians and scientists must be able to track animal viruses in human populations. However, our healthcare systems currently struggle to provide testing even for well-understood viruses. Therefore, we urgently need greater investments in universal and accessible health care, which would enhance our virus surveillance abilities.
In addition to stronger health systems and more comprehensive surveillance protocols, we also need to address underlying causes of zoonotic disease emergence, such as deforestation, the wildlife trade, and climate change. While implementing a comprehensive pandemic-prevention framework will require significant investment, the cost of inaction is sure to be far higher.
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