Three years after the first corona lockdown, researchers are looking for new viruses that could trigger a pandemic. How likely is a new outbreak?
Munich – The outbreak of the corona pandemic, triggered by the pathogen SARS-CoV-2, shook the whole world. It’s been three years since the first corona lockdown in Germany, and yet many people are still struggling with the consequences, such as long or post-Covid. And it cannot be ruled out that the next global wave of disease is already waiting.
Researchers and virologists are therefore trying to discover dangerous new viruses as early as possible and thus prevent the next pandemic. The virologist Hendrick Streeck traveled around the world as part of a documentary in the RTL weekly magazine Extra in the March 21 program. Here Streeck gave his assessment of the outbreak of the next pandemic – and how it can be prevented.
New corona virus discovered: “It can trigger a new pandemic”
In fact, a new outbreak does not seem so unlikely. The bat researcher Ananporn Supataragul in Thailand has apparently already discovered a new corona virus through studies on bats. “If we don’t get it under control, it can trigger a new pandemic,” Supataragul told Extra.
The early characterization of the new viruses is important, as Streeck explains. This gives us the advantage of being able to develop a new vaccine that can act as a universal corona vaccine. The goal is to develop a vaccine that works well and is no longer specifically against SARS-CoV-2, but “will also cover all corona viruses in the future,” says Streeck.
New type of field research since the outbreak of the corona pandemic
The researchers must therefore track down the viruses as early as possible before they can become a real danger like the corona virus. The discovery of the new virus carried by bats is probably not a big surprise. According to the virologist Streeck, there are around 400 human pathogenic viruses in bats. This means pathogens that are capable of triggering a disease in humans.
This new type of field research, which researchers have been doing since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, may be the key to success in preventing another pandemic. “If we had done this form of field research from the start, we would have been able to predict the outbreak, prepare and prevent a pandemic,” says Streeck.
True origin of the corona virus remains unclear – wild animal market in Wuhan as a starting point?
The true origin of the corona virus is still not fully understood. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to believe transmission from wild animals to humans is the most likely. The latest DNA finds from Wuhan could further support this thesis. Loud tagesschau.de The finds are genetic analyzes from a wild animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which date from early 2020, i.e. the beginning of the pandemic.
Virologist Streeck also sees the wild animal markets as particularly dangerous. During a visit to the largest wild animal market in Thailand, he warns of a wide variety of exotic animals that are stacked in cages in a very small space: “Contact with such animals carries the risk of spreading an unknown virus”. According to Streeck, avoiding a pandemic begins with species protection. He describes the conditions prevailing on the market as shocking.
“Research extremely important”: Experts examine viruses in the jungle – to avoid the next pandemic
On behalf of the renowned Hamburg Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), researchers are currently looking for previously unknown viruses in the jungle. For this they traveled to Ecuador, because the Amazon region is considered loud Extra as a breeding ground for new viruses. Laboratory head at the BNITM and head of the research project in the Amazon, Dániel Cadar, even reports on new viruses that can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. The researchers found these in mice from the Amazon.
Research in remote places is enormously important. Because of globalization, contact with any animal that transmits viruses to humans is possible. “The better we know which viruses exist, how they are transmitted and which animals they come from, the better we can control the viruses,” says Streeck. In order to avoid a pandemic, it is therefore elementary to find out which viruses exist in order to prepare for it. (rrm)
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