According to a new study, scientists avoided a potential pandemic threat by isolating a virus from Europe that is known to be a close family relative of some of the world’s deadliest viruses. For several decades, Earth has been engulfed by various pathogens, resulting in either an epidemic or a pandemic.
Without the scientific breakthrough, the world would be dealing with two pandemic-level viruses in addition to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The new study sheds light on the need for more research in the fields of ecology and virology to combat potential virus outbreaks.
A Pandemic Threat Is Possible
In a case of pandemic preparedness, researchers from the Medway School of Pharmacy collaborated with researchers from the universities of Greenwich and Kent to isolate the so-called Lloviu virus (LLOV), a close relative of the Ebola virus.
On March 31, the researchers isolated the infectious LLOV from Schreiber’s bats in Hungary and published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The LLOV was first identified in 2002 using genetic material from the same bats in Spain.
The LLOV is a member of the filovirus family, which includes the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus, and its cases were first reported in Africa. Although a potential pandemic threat has been avoided, the study demonstrates that viruses are not limited to a single location, as previously thought.
Preparedness for a Pandemic
According to Dr. Simon Scott of the Medway School of Pharmacy’s Viral Pseudotye Unit (VPU), their research is a “smoking gun,” but it is still important for the research team to determine the viruses’ distribution in order to be prepared for potential epidemics and pandemics, as cited by the University of Kent’s News Centre webpage in Canterbury, England.
The university in the United Kingdom also stated that there is a significant knowledge gap regarding animal hosts, pathogenicity, and transmissibility of these newly discovered viruses. It also emphasised the significance of research into zoonotic viruses, which can be transmitted from animals to humans.
In this case, LLOV has been reported to be of interest to public health around the world due to the increasing close proximity between animals and humans, as the latter has been settling for centuries, occupying animal habitats and ecosystems.
Zoonosis According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), zoonotic diseases are extremely common not only in the United States but also globally, with scientists estimating that more than six out of every ten known diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Meanwhile, the CDC adds that three out of every four emerging or new infectious diseases can still be transmitted from animals to humans, with COVID-19 being the most recent and widespread of these, with the virus allegedly originating in a flea market in Wuhan, China, as early as 2019.
Following the study, Dr. Scott and his team plan to conduct additional research on the health risks posed by the LLOV to humans across Europe, according to the University of Kent.