Friday, September 22, 2023

Research into new types of viruses helps identify new pandemics


Victoria Guillen
In the last 12 years, more than 200 viruses have been discovered that affect humans. Additionally, it is estimated that between 3 and 4 new virus species are discovered each year. However, there are still more than 300,000 viruses in mammals are to be discovered. “We can be sure that there will be more emerging viruses and more pandemics as we currently only know the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we need to better prepare for the particular pandemic that will come at some point.” highlighted that Dr. Isabel Sola, Virologist specializing in coronavirus and scientist from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) during the II Conference “Understanding viruses and preparing for future health challenges”. The meeting was organized by the PharmaMar Foundation and the National Association of Health Informants (ANIS).

During the day, Dr. Solá and the Dr. Luis Enjuanes Research Professor at CSIC and Director of the Coronavirus Laboratory at the National Center for Biotechnology, have addressed everything from the most fundamental aspects of viruses to the challenges posed by emerging viruses and future health threats, providing a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the panorama of current virologists.

Viruses remain one of the leading causes of illness and death worldwide, particularly in countries with less developed healthcare systems. Each infected cell produces 10,000 new virus particles and within a few days the number of viruses in the human body can reach 10¹². In this sense, Dr. Enjuanes explains: “In humans, viruses are constantly reinventing themselves. They have great variability. Therefore, prevention with vaccination represents the best investment-benefit ratio to protect us from viruses.”. Specifically, as already mentioned, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified 1,483 epidemic outbreaks in 172 countries between 2011 and 2018.

Between 2011 and 2018, the WHO identified 1,483 epidemic outbreaks in 172 countries

For Dr. Solá, the “One Health” concept coined by the WHO is one of the fundamental themes to prevent future pandemics, because “Viruses are extremely diverse; they reproduce in living cells and react to environmental changes. “Bats play a leading role in the emergence of many pandemics, they are the natural reservoir of coronaviruses and also make up more than 20% of mammal species.”

This pandemic could have been avoided. When the first SARS-CoV with high pandemic potential emerged in 2003, the necessary measures were not taken to prevent future coronaviruses.” has manifested itself. In this sense he warned against it “Thanks to global monitoring and research into new species and their behavior, we still have time to avoid future pandemics, always under biosecurity measures.”

Likewise, he added that the cost-benefit ratio supports protection strategies. This includes preclinical studies, phase I clinical studies and collaboration between science and the pharmaceutical industry.. “Only by preparing from the perspective of prevention against new viruses can we avoid future health emergencies.” “We must find the path we have taken to be effective in dealing with new pandemics,” it is finished.

In fact, the specialist has cited natural genetic variations, environmental and ecological changes, human movements and health deficiencies as the main determining factors influencing the development of a new pandemic. ““With our behavior we can promote contact between species and thus bring about a change in the viruses.” he explained.

It is estimated that between 3 and 4 new species are discovered each year, as there are still more than 300,000 viruses to be discovered in mammals

The Origin of SARS-CoV-2: The Huanan Market (Wuhan)

Regarding the origin of SARS-CoV-2, Dr. Enjunes assures this “It’s highly unlikely” that the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, as there is no evidence that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory. However, he has pointed out that the simplest explanation is zoonotic cause.

“There is no evidence that it came from a laboratory, but in the raccoon cages sold in the Wuhan market there were coronavirus samples with 99.93% sequence identity with the human virus, the virus came from there.”“, has manifested itself.

Regarding SARS-CoV-2, Dr. Enjuanes assumes that the new Covid-19 vaccine will be monovalent. “The vaccine against Covid-19 will only be against Ómicron because vaccination with two viruses of different serotypes causes interference, although there is always some protection and neutralization.” Therefore, the doctor has highlighted that the virus continues to evolve very quickly. “When a new vaccine is released against a particular variant, there is already a new one. However, they all react to a large extent with the T-lymphocyte response.”. This is the case of the newly formulated monovalent vaccines against Covid-19, intended only to combat the XBB.1.5 variant of Ómicron that appeared at the beginning of the year, although it is currently no longer the most dominant variant and is the new one EC.5.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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