Top scientist warns that zoonotic illness must be controlled at the source.
One of the scientists who discovered the life-saving Covid-19 medication has warned that humanity needs to think “much more holistically” about how it interacts with nature in order to avoid future pandemics.
Professor Peter Horby was one of the designers of the Recovery experiment, which found that dexamethasone, a routinely given drug, could reduce coronavirus mortality by one-third.
He is the director of Oxford University’s new Pandemic Sciences Centre, and is one of five scientists knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their work combatting the pandemic.
These pathogens are making their way into humans from animal sources, and we need to halt them at the source, rather than waiting until it’s too late and a pandemic has erupted.
Prof Horby believes that long-term investment in pandemic research is critical to avoiding a repeat of the Covid-19 disaster.
“I’ve worked on SARS 1, avian flu, and Ebola epidemics, and I’m afraid many groups of individuals have short memories, and what you see is short-termism,” he told the PA news agency.
“Short-term investment appears and then vanishes.”
Prof Horby also cautioned that if global warming increases and climatic breakdown continues, the harm presented to people by zoonotic illnesses — viruses that spread from animals to humans – would only intensify.
“We need to think about how we farm animals and engage with the ecosystem in a much more holistic way,” he said.
“These pathogens are getting into humans through animal sources, and we need to stop them at the source, not after it’s too late and a pandemic has occurred.”
The Pandemic Sciences Centre will focus on intelligence collecting and situational awareness, among other things.
Prof Horby enquired, “What are the hazards, where are the threats, how can we reduce them, how can we prevent them from becoming pandemics?”
The center will also concentrate on producing rapid-deployable remedies such as medications and vaccines to try to neutralize a danger.
It will look at how to as well as medical research. (This is a brief piece.)