Are we smart enough to be challenged by Nature’s Fury?

Savitha Raveendran

February 17, 2020

The biggest health threat to the current world is the fast spread of the Corona Virus, initially named as 2019-nCoV and recently as COVID-19 by world health organisation (WHO).

COVID-19 is a zoonotic agent, dubbed novel Corona Virus (n co v) and the lineage is yet to be traced. It is rapidly evolving, highly contagious and confirmed death of over several thousands.

The focal point was Wuhan city of China, and spread to 29 counties across the globe. The index cases were linked to people who had visited a wet market, suggesting possible animal to human transmission. All measures were put in place by ‘’WHO’’ to control the spread, bring down the death rate and it had been declared as a global emergency.

WHO message was to contain this pandemic by “protecting yourself”. Protective measures included; avoid consumption of raw uncooked animal products, washing hands frequently, practice respiratory hygiene, maintain social distancing etc. Ever since, not only in China but the whole world was on high alert against this deadly virus.

When was the last time we were on alert?

We don’t have to dig so far for the recent outbreaks which set off international alarm

  • Nipah virus outbreak – 2018 in kerala, India, originated from fruit bats and claimed 17 lives, lead to revival of Nipah drug trial group by ‘’WHO’’. The initial outbreak of Nipah was reported from Malaysia in 1999 and it has re-emerged in Kerala in 2018 & 2019.
  • Ebola virus disease in democratic republic of Congo 2018, claiming 2200 live out of 3300 infected persons. Small and medium outbreaks are getting reported primarily from Africa and also from other regions ever since its discovery in 1976.
  • Zika virus Epidemic of 2015-2016-in Brazil and spread to other parts of America, islands of pacific and Asia.
  • MERS CoV outbreak in Saudi Arabia 2012, approximately 30% of infected persons have died. Several outbreaks are reported across globe since then and recent being from Saudi Arabia again in October 2019.
  • H1N1 swine flu pandemic 2009, according to WHO statics the virus has killed nearly 18000 people ever since it appeared in2009.
  • H5N1 avian influenza pandemic, fast mutating and highly contagious, have been reported from various countries since 2003. Claimed lives of many and also huge lost of poultry.
  • SARS CoV Pandemic in 2003 China affected 8000 people and spread to 26 countries. Diseases like dengue, malaria, typhoid are endemic in many parts of world and it has the potential of becoming epidemic or pandemic.
  • “The AMR crisis” – one of the greatest threats faced by the global health system and it is estimated that if we fail to take appropriate actions this can result in 10 million death each year by 2050 with an estimated economical cost of $100 trillion as per the UN Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance

We are in 21st century and we have definitely made tremendous advances in all areas of science, technology & innovation. We are even set to explore Moon and Mars. With all these achievements we are struggling to face the challenge raise by these single cellular bacteria’s and viruses, are we smart enough to be challenged?

Most of these viral pandemics originated from animals or birds that mean they are animal strains meant to cause an infection in animal species. Because of human intervention in their habitat these pathogens have adapted, emerged as human pathogen. Thus, we are now maintaining the social distancing and are confined to our spaces. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics have resulted in emergence of more and more multi drug resistant bacteria’s and finally the pan drug resistant bugs which will not respond to any of the available treatment options. Thus, we are set to enter the pre antibiotic era. We have been forewarned about the antibiotic misuse by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1945 itself but we were ignorant. We will not be able to save the world if we continue to remain ignorant like this. In 2016, the commission on a Global health risk framework for the future, estimated that pandemic disease events would cost the global economy 6 trillion dollars in the 21st century. It also recommended spending 4.5 billion annually on global prevention and response capabilities to reduce the threat pose by pandemic events. Likewise, there are many national and international initiatives to steer the research and development of antibiotics. JPIAMR, GARDP, CARB-X to name a few; applaud all these initiatives, but a lot more need to come forward.

We should not to break the ecological balance, not to invade forest, not to over crowd and keep population under control. Need to create well- designed health strategies and make strict rules to implement global health practices. We should save our antibiotics for future use and invest in developing new antibiotics, medicines and vaccines. We should be smart enough to be proactive than reactive.

There is no harm in preparing ourselves after a disaster, but smartness is foreseeing things so that we can be ready for the fight.

JPIAMR(Joint Programming Initiative in Antimicrobial Resistance), GARDP global antibiotic research and development partnership, CARB- X combating antibiotic resistant bacteria biopharmaceutical accelerator