Research

Why are experts increasingly talking about the threat of a new pandemic?

Today humanity finds itself in a situation, ohwhich only a few scientists and science fiction writers have pondered. What astrophysicist Carl Sagan warned against at the end of his brilliant book A World Full of Demons: Science Like a Candle in Darkness is an everyday reality. Wars, although few in number in comparison with our past, are still fought in different parts of the world. Nuclear weapons, like any other, are still being developed. Our powerlessness over the challenges of climate change and our failure to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming. However, failure does not mean that these problems do not have a solution. Thus, the knowledge and experience gained during the fight against the current pandemic will allow us, if not to prevent, then to be prepared for the following threats. Experts include both the Nipah virus, which is carried by bats, and the monkeypox virus, the outbreak of which is spreading in Africa. Both of these viruses, according to the researchers, have pandemic potential and pose a serious threat to global health.

There are more and more contacts between humans and wild animals. And it's very bad

Content

  • 1 World on alert
  • 2 How to predict a pandemic?
  • 3 Monkeypox outbreaks
  • 4 Nipah virus outbreaks

The world is on alert

At the end of the second year of the pandemic, experts are allmore talk about new threats. Despite all the troubles that the new coronavirus has brought to the world, it, unfortunately, is not the first, and certainly not the last. The rapid climate change caused by anthropogenic activity has put humanity on alert.

The record amount of carbon dioxide thataccumulated in the earth's atmosphere, will contribute to a global rise in temperatures. Together with heat and drought in some regions and floods and landslides in others, we will face not only massive climatic migrations, but also new, previously unknown diseases.

See also: How will the pandemic end? There are clues in the history of past illnesses

More and more invading the habitat of the wildanimals, we risk opening Pandora's box at all. Of course, the threats from viruses detected as a result of melting permafrost have not been canceled, however zoonoses - zoonotic infections that are transmitted fromanimals to humans - represent the greatest danger today. Ultimately, this is how COVID-19 came about - thanks to natural evolutionary processes.

Viruses use some animals as "intermediate" hosts

In fact, all of the above is not news andeven more so for global health professionals. So, back in 1947, the World Health Organization (WHO) started tracking viruses with pandemic potential. Standardized symptom checklists were used to identify threats to researchers to look for signals of emerging or re-emerging diseases among populations of patients with difficult-to-diagnose symptoms.

There is only one problem: if the patient is admitted to the hospital, the outbreak has already occurred... This is exactly what happened with the coronavirusSARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19: The infection was probably already widespread, and long before it was first detected. It turns out that the developed strategy let us down.

Read even more interesting articles about the threats facing our civilization and how to resist them on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are articles that are not on the site!

How to predict a pandemic?

The scientists' new strategy is based on a more proactive approach: evolutionary theory of viruses... This theory suggests that over time, animal viruses gradually become dangerous human viruses. In other words, zoonosis is at the head.

In fact, zoonotic transmission of viruses is a longa process in which several species of animals take part at once. Sometimes it may take an “intermediate” animal, such as a raptor or a pig, to mutate the virus. Having firmly settled in the body of the intermediate host, the virus prepares for the next leap. And often a person becomes the final owner.

Modern viral evolutionary theory evolves in real time

Humanity has been at war with viruses throughout its history

Viruses jump between species in the processrandom mutations that allow them to successfully infect their hosts. When new outbreaks of zoonotic viral diseases such as Ebola first attracted worldwide attention in the 1970s, studies of the extent of disease transmission relied on antibody testing - blood tests to identify people who were already infected. This is because serologic testing can help determine if diseases such as Ebola are circulating undetected.

It turns out that this is how it was:antibodies to Ebola were detected in more than 5% of people tested in Liberia in 1982. And that's decades before the 2014 West African epidemic. Results confirm the theory of viral evolution: It takes time - sometimes a long time - for an animal virus to become dangerous and transmitted between people.

However, as Morin Miller, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, writes in an article for The Conversation, the findings also mean scientists have a chance to intervene.

Viruses tiny and invisible to our eyes can destroy entire civilizations

In other words, modern methods such asHot spot surveillance and serological studies allow scientists to understand which diseases circulating on the planet pose a potential threat and have a high pandemic potential.

More on the topic: Reindeer are infected with the coronavirus. Why is it important?

Monkeypox outbreaks

Sometimes the past comes back.The smallpox virus, completely defeated among the human population in 1980, thrives in the wild. So, for example, monkeys have become a kind of reservoir for this orthopoxvirus. Symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those known to mankind, but are less severe.

The countries of Central and West Africa have become the very "hot spots"

The researchers note that monkeypoxis a classic example of zoonosis. The disease is transmitted from animals to humans, and cases of the disease are often found near tropical forests, where carriers of the virus live. To date, cases of monkeypox have also been reported in squirrels and other animals. The mortality rate from infection is 10%.

One in 10 people infected with monkeypox dies

At first, it may seem that the transmission of infection fromperson-to-person is limited: the virus is transmitted through contact with body fluids, lesions on the skin or on the inner surfaces of mucous membranes, such as the mouth or throat, and through contact with contaminated objects.

This is interesting: What is known about the new variants of the coronavirus?

However, more recently WHO reports over 8,800 cases of monkeypox in Africa during 2021. And recently it became known about the outbreak of this dangerous disease in Nigeria.

The first symptoms of monkeypox includefever, malaise, headache, and sometimes sore throat and cough. A distinctive feature of monkeypox from smallpox is lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes). You can protect yourself from infection by washing your hands and avoiding contact with wild animals, as well as products made from them. The incubation period for monkeypox is three to 17 days.

As some experts point out, they are worried about the monkeypox virus, as it can be synthesized in the laboratory:

Now we and our American colleagues continuework with the smallpox virus, we develop effective countermeasures. For what? Closely related orthopoxviruses, such as monkeypox virus, remained in nature. With the disease, 10% of those infected die. However, the source can be not only monkeys, but also other animals. The cowpox virus has survived - this is a variety of viruses, one of which can evolve to a new variola virus, ”said Rinat Maksyutov, Director General of the State Scientific Center for Virology and Biotechnology" Vector "of Rospotrebnadzor.

Monkeypox virus under a microscope

Interestingly, the main threat in the opinion ofexperts, yet comes from humans and their ability to manipulate viruses in the laboratory. If the virus "escapes" from the laboratory, it is scary to imagine what this could lead to.

Don't Miss: Viruses Nearly Identical to Coronavirus Found in Bats

Nipah virus outbreaks

One of the latest outbreaks of the Nipah virus in Indiamade researchers seriously consider whether it should be viewed as a future threat. The infection was first detected in Malaysia in 1998, but the death of a boy in the Indian state of Kerala raised concerns that Nipah could mutate and increase transmission efficiency, leading to widespread spread.

This scenario is daunting because it is currently mortality from the virus is more than 50%, and there is no vaccine or cure.

Nipah Is a paramyxovirus similar to the parainfluenza virushuman - one of the few viruses that cause the common cold. Its natural host is the fruit bats of South and Southeast Asia. All human cases of Nipah virus to date have been caused by direct or indirect contact with infected bats.

Bats are the real reservoirs of deadly viruses

Infection in bats is subclinicalcharacter therefore goes largely unnoticed. The virus is excreted in the urine, which, through care and crowding, allows transmission within and between colonies. Fruit or fruit juices contaminated with bat urine are main route of transmission virus to people.

Long term study in Bangladesh, where amongThere are regular outbreaks of the Nipah virus in the population, indicating that bat population density, the prevalence of the virus, and people drinking raw date palm juice are major factors explaining transmission, the researchers write.

Nipah infection in most cases leads todeath from acute encephalitis, because the virus replicates best in tissues, where it can easily enter cells. The virus replicates to a small extent in the vascular system, blood vessels that provide a pathway for the virus to spread from consumed food to the nervous system.

The Nipah virus is deadly. Mortality is about 50%

The likelihood that the virus will start multiplying inthe upper respiratory tract, from where it will certainly be more transmitted, is small, and although this does not exclude the possibility of a pandemic, it significantly reduces its likelihood.

You will be interested: Bats can infect humans with viruses hundreds of thousands of times a year every year.

Still, outbreaks of Nipah and smallpox virusesmonkeys do not originate around the world and are unlikely to have the same potential as COVID-19. However, this is not a reason to relax, because if you do not track the outbreaks of various infectious diseases, at some point we will be vulnerable. Scientists, fortunately, are paying more and more attention to viruses and science is moving forward by leaps and bounds.

Bubbling is generally not such a bad idea.

As for pandemic preparedness inmedium to long term, attention should be paid to identifying other viruses that pose a threat, and to develop vaccines and other protective measures against them. After all, it is with viruses that we have been fighting throughout our history. And let's hope we win again without falling prey to the blind evolutionary race of tiny viruses and bacteria.