‘Next time we might not be so lucky’: The coronavirus shows why we need to learn more about viral threats

| | April 14, 2020
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all now seeing the consequences of a failure to plan ahead when an event is predictable but the timing is uncertain.

Viral pandemics have always been a feature of human history, influencing our societies for millennia but all too often forgotten as they strike at long and irregular intervals. So, at some point, perhaps not in the lifetimes of many of us, another lethal virus will emerge and sweep the globe. …

It is impossible to know exactly what virus might become a pandemic strain decades from now, but it is surely possible to make some educated guesses as to where the greatest risks might lie. … Obviously, influenza and coronaviruses are on the world’s radar screens, but there are other candidates including the Hendra/Nipah family, Chikungunya virus, the filoviruses and new retroviruses. … There are now nearly 7,000 named virus families and vastly more that have yet to be identified let alone understood.

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Although SARS-CoV-2 is a lethal virus, it kills only around 1 percent of those it infects. … Other known viruses are capable of killing far, far higher proportions of the humans they infect… . It is not trivializing what we are presently going through to say that, next time, we might not be so lucky.

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