With the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic still raging around the world, it’s hard to think at all that something even worse could hit us in the future, but scientists are urging us to already be preparing for such a circumstance.
Long before we knew the magnitude of the threat emanating from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and recorded the first cases of Covid-19, scientists were aware that a deadly pandemic of something unknown was just waiting to show us how unprepared we were to fight back. How is this possible? Very simply, we were recklessly venturing deeper and deeper into previously unexplored areas with our activities, clearing more forest and bringing ourselves in danger of exposure to unknown pathogens, so some sort of pandemic was almost inevitable. And worst of all, as the researchers suggest, although we are now more aware of the threat after one year of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are still just as susceptible to another.
Hence, in their opinion, it is extremely important that we already start preparing for the next ones as well, by doing research and working on vaccines right away, so that later it doesn’t turn out that a new threat will appear before we have fully controlled the current one, because only then will the consequences be disastrous. As we can read in a new commentary published in the journal Nature, the researchers believe that governments and private sectors should start investing now in research and development of the so-called neutralizing antibodies, which are protective proteins that are effective against many varieties of the virus.
– Such antibodies could be used as first-line drugs to prevent and treat viruses in a particular family, including new strains that haven’t even emerged yet. Even more importantly, they can be used to design vaccines against multiple members of a single virus family, explain the authors of the commentary, Dennis Burton and Eric Topol. The researchers also chose to make the rather controversial-sounding comment that we’re lucky it was Covid-19 that hit us and not something else, because with the characteristic SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, creating a vaccine was much easier and next time… we might not be so lucky.
– The next pathogen may be more difficult to control. It will take longer to create a vaccine. Even SARS-CoV-2 itself may become more problematic for vaccines, with new variants, they add. That’s why, they say, we need to go into vaccine and drug research for entire families of viruses that potentially have a fighting chance against other variants of SARS, HIV, influenza, Ebola, MER, and others. Only that the process of isolating the antibodies needed is complicated and expensive, as they estimate it will take several years to get it to phase I testing and will cost $100-200 million for each virus we want to address: – We will have future outbreaks and very likely more outbreaks. We need to stop them before they become pandemics,” they conclude.