Scientists Are Trying to Spot New Viruses Before They Cause Pandemics

“If we had installed it in 2019, when this virus had arrived in the US, we would have been ready to access data that would have allowed us to see roaming in New York City, for example, without doing anything different.” .Mina said.

Although the observatory would not be able to identify new coronaviruses, it would have detected an unusually high number of infections from the coronovirus family, including the cause of the common cold. It can also be shown that new coronoviruses were interacting with patients’ immune systems in unexpected ways, resulting in telltale markers in the blood. Dr. Meena said it would be a signal to begin genetic sequencing of patient samples, and could provide the basis for the closure of the city, Drs. Meena said. (Likewise, serology will not be able to see emergencies of new virus variants, such as infectious coronovirus variants that were discovered before spreading elsewhere in South Africa and England. For this, researchers need to consider the standard genomic sequencing of virus test samples. Must trust.)

The observatory would require a system for hospitals, blood banks and other sources of blood, as well as obtaining consent from patients and donors. It also tackles the financing problem, noted Alex Grenzer, a virologist at the University of Washington. Health insurance companies would be unlikely to foot the bill, as serology tests are not commonly used by doctors to treat people.

Dr. Meena estimated that it would cost about $ 100 million to land the observatory. He said that, by his calculations, the federal government has allocated more than two to diagnostics company Allum to produce Kovid tests fast enough to cover US demand for only two days. A pathogen observatory, he said, is like a weather forecasting system that attracts large numbers of buoys and sensors around the world, passively reporting on events when and where they occur. These systems are funded by government grants and are widely valued.

The predictive power of Circol is worth the investment, said Jessica Metcalf, one of Princeton and one of the members of an observatory team. A few years ago, she and her colleagues found in a small survey that Madagascar had low immunity to measles. In fact, an outbreak gained momentum in 2018, killing more than 10,000 children.

Now Dr. One and a half million plasma samples in Mina’s freezer, collected by plasma donation company Octopharma from sites across the country last year, are undergoing serological trials focused on the new coronovirus, funded by a $ 2 million grant from Open Philanthropy Huh. . For testing the researchers had to wait to set up a new robotic testing facility and process the samples, but are now working through their first batch.

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