Another war’s coming, warn experts. The enemy? Mean and microscopic. So thank the WHO’s who: R&D-focused scientists enlisted to update a ‘priority pathogens’ list by probing evidence on virus families and bacteria, including an unknown foe of ‘pandemic potential’ – Disease X. This, even before Covid-19 becomes Disease Ex.
But don’t drink to our health just yet. A US-based scientist, Andrew Huff, has re-dropped a bio-bombshell, claiming SARS-CoV-2 was manmade and lab-leaked. Echoing supposed ‘conspiracy theorists’, he alleges that US health honchos supported laxly managed research on bat coronaviruses in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, effectively ceding ‘bioweapon technology’.
Super bugged, rival theorists brandish the post-outbreak zoonotic hypothesis: SARS-CoV-2’s birthplace was a Wuhan wet market housing crammed animals, including wildlife such as reservoir (raccoon) dogs but not, as some ‘investigators’ claim, bats out of viral-loaded hell. Meantime, cynics suspect – and fatalists expect – cover-ups on both competing viral parentages.
Either way, pandemic-related intimations of morbidity haven’t dissuaded us suitable hosts from consuming, poaching and trafficking animal exotica. Nor have we re-thought some ‘gain-of-function’ experiments with high loss-of-control risks: virulence-enhanced pathogens giving their Faustian genetic engineers the slip. Covid-fatigued, we’re too busy revenge shopping.
If this isn’t immuno-compromising enough, microbiologists have unearthed 13 ‘zombie viruses’ from Siberian permafrost samples, including a ‘pandoravirus’ frozen for over 48,500 years. Amoeba dangled as ‘bait’, several of these resurrected bugs proved infectious despite being buried for millennia. Call it Resident Evil: Afterlife. Or: They Came From Down There.
The researchers say ancient ice, thawing as Earth gets hotter, will release more greenhouse gases. Microbial Rip Van Winkles could also resurface, including possibly human-unfriendly viruses. Moreover, nature, mined and drilled, may not let sleeping bugs lie.
Chronic climate changers, we’re aware that global warming risks pathogenic swarming. But suppose we’re miraculously spared ecologically triggered spillovers, and vectors aren’t victorious. Killer-bugs could still strike as antibiotic resistance fighters, prison-lab escapees, accidental airborne tourists or intercontinental bio-terroristic missiles. Above all, mutant microbes could launch invasions of the antibody snatchers.
Will symptomatic malaise over looming germ warfare make us humans a less bio-hazardous species? Nah. Calculate the (sero)positives of an ICU-ed planet. There’s so much money to be made from people’s misery when World War Z breaks out. They need guns and vaccines, don’t they?
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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