A group of international experts investigating the origin of COVID-19 says the world may not be sufficiently prepared for a future pandemic.
The Independent Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Pandemics unveiled its latest report on Monday, finding that the world had “largely failed” to prepare to prevent or respond to another pandemic.
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He revealed that COVID-19 likely originated in animals and spread to humans.
Without proper planning, the task force says, it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.
“The world has largely failed to rise to the challenge of being better prepared to prevent or respond adequately to the next pandemic, whatever its etiology,” said independent task force chair Dr Gerald. T Keusch.
“Our task force believes that the best way to address risk factors for future pandemics is a One Health approach that balances and optimizes the health of people, animals and ecosystems.”
The report says the emergence of zoonotic viruses is an “urgent and growing threat” to public health.
“The increase in epidemics over the past decades has been driven by many factors, including human and animal population growth, coupled with expanding human-animal-environment interfaces, changing patterns of land use, climate change, global travel and trade,” the report said.
“These epidemics have common features, including zoonotic spillover from an animal reservoir host to humans, with or without the involvement of another transmission animal host.”
One of the two Australian scientists on the task force is Dr Danielle Anderson of the Peter Doherty Institute in Victoria.
She said the emergence of COVID-19 has brought scientific disciplines to the fore and underscored their importance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced or highlighted scientific disciplines, such as virology and epidemiology, to the wider community,” Anderson said.
“While ‘lessons learned’ are certainly not new to scientists, it is our responsibility to ensure that these lessons and our recommendations are better understood and more easily adopted and implemented to protect communities, animals and ecosystems now and in the future. ”
The group’s findings build on two studies published earlier this year that found the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated in a market in Wuhan, China.
One of these investigations was flagged as inconclusive, mainly because data from China was missing.
The most recent research, published online by the journal Science in August, showed the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was likely the early epicenter of the virus.
It concludes that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has spread from animals to humans twice.
Kristian Andersen, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research and co-author of one of the studies, said he was initially “convinced” of the lab leak theory.
But since then he has changed his mind.
“All of this evidence tells us the same thing: it points directly to this particular market in the middle of Wuhan,” Andersen said.
“I myself was quite convinced of the leak from the lab until we looked at it very carefully and looked at it much more closely.”
In one study, which incorporated data collected by Chinese scientists, mapping tools were used to estimate the locations of more than 150 of the first reported COVID-19 cases.
They also mapped cases from January and February 2020 using data from a social media app.
Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues posed the question: “Of all the places where the first cases could have lived, where did they live?”
The data revealed a pattern that showed the highest density of cases was near and centered in the wet market.
“Essentially, this applies to both all cases in December and also cases with no known market connection,” Worobey said.
“And that’s an indication that the virus started spreading among people working at the market, but then started spreading in the local community.”
Andersen said clusters of cases were found inside the market, where they now know people were selling wildlife that could potentially be infected with COVID.