5 scientific lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 crisis has shaken the world and revealed five important scientific aspects of the future, especially during the next pandemic.

After two years of a pandemic and at a time when the French government is easing existing health measures, scientists from around the world have shared the main lessons to be learned from the Covid-19 crisis. Science and the future summarizes it in three episodes:

1/ Lessons scientists
2/ Lessons medical
3/ Lessons Social

The Importance of Basic Research

Although novel in the context of vaccines, the mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna has been studied.since the 1990s“, clarified Inserm immunologist Cecil Cherkinski with Science and the future. “The development and formulation were already ready, it remained to turn a rather handicraft laboratory product into an industrial one..”

There is no doubt that the rapid development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 was only possible because it was able to take advantage of the large amount of basic research on other coronaviruses.“, like the 2012 MERS, researchers note in Public health boundaries. “This approach (…) could also be implemented for the other 23 virus families known to infect humans (eg Flaviviridae and Filoviridae), which would greatly improve our ability to cope with future pandemics.“.

Preparing antivirals for the next pandemic

The three approved drugs that inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2 are derived from drug development programs against another RNA virus.“, note Canadian and American researchers in The science. The three drugs are molnupinavir, originally developed for influenza, remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola, and nirmatrelvir (trade name Paxlovid). If the latter was developed specifically against the Covid-19 virus, it is derived from the molecule “developed almost 20 years ago against SARS 2001“, the authors note.

Covid Crisis Experience”provides key lessons for the next pandemic“Researchers are nominated. “The most effective approach (…) to any new RNA virus is to start research before the pandemic under existing drug programs for other RNA viruses.“as soon as it happened”proven effectiveness of remdesivir and molnupiravir“. Therefore, in order to prevent a future RNA virus pandemic, we must expand “libraries of antiviral compounds“, these shared scientific databases.

But that’s not enough, because there is no “no guarantee“that these libraries will cover all possible viruses. The solution is to invest in research programs aimed at diversifying viral molecules that are potential targets for future drugs. Researchers advise focusing on oral drugs (easier to administer and export than, for example, injections) acting “broad-spectrum”, that is, against a whole family of viruses, and, finally, it is recommended to organize without delay the first phases of clinical trials, first in animals (preclinical) and then in humans (in phase 1) “to be ready to test infected patients when the next pandemic occurs“.

Even “wobbly” viruses can have a big impact

Viruses that appear initially do not need to be fully optimized for transmission to have a significant impact.– notes the Australian evolutionary biologist and virologist Edward Holmes in a special issue of the journal. The science on lessons to be learned from the health crisis. “Compared to the highly infectious Delta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus first discovered in Wuhan in 2019 was far less efficient at transmitting to humans, but was still a good enough respiratory pathogen to spread rapidly in dense, well-mixed environments. and a fully susceptible population“.

Therefore, in order to protect against a future zoonoses (animal-borne) pandemic, it will be necessary to control all places of close interaction between humans and animals: markets, slaughterhouses, veterinary centers, etc. For Edward Holmes, the greatest risk of a pandemic is still respiratory transmitted viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, which are very difficult to control. “Three groups of RNA viruses that regularly cross species boundaries best fit this risk profile: paramyxoviruses (family of mumps and measles viruses, ed.)influenza viruses and, above all, coronaviruses“, he concludes.

Speed ​​of action and cooperation are fundamental

The number of lives affected by this virus has been enormous, but it has also catalyzed a truly meaningful coordination of collaboration within the scientific community that we hope can be sustained over the coming years and decades.“, notes Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Brian Wahl in Scientific American. “In the past, when we thought of a stage that would limit the pace of a pandemic, we thought of vaccines, but that is no longer the case today. We were able to get vaccines a year later, antiviral drugs a year later. All this shows that science has indeed accelerated to the point where it can create tools at breakneck speed.says enthusiastically Dr. Amesh Adalya, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

However, they failed to win. “Humans have evolved to perceive urgency in terms of hours and days rather than years or decades. This trend has already delayed the Covid-19 action, which has been in place for several weeks.‘, notes professor of mathematics related to health, Christina Pagel, in The science.

stay humble

Both scientists and non-scientists have learned that the virus may be more powerful than them‘, scientists say Yale magazine. “As infectious disease doctors, we were experts at the beginning of the pandemic because we understand pathogens in general, and based on what we’ve seen in the past, we could say that there are some things that might be true.says Dr. Manisha Jootani, an infectious disease specialist at Yale University.All these strokes, blood clots, loss of smell and taste that go on for months, we could never know or predict.“It matters to her”have the humility to sometimes say “I don’t know”“.

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