(Image by Masum Ali from Pixabay).
Ebere Okereke, Public Health England, UK
Ahmed Razavi, Public Health England, UK
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the biosecurity and biothreat landscape, opening the realisation that there are a number of gaps in biosafety and biosecurity surveillance and response capabilities. It also demonstrated the importance of international cooperation and collaboration in preventing capability failures that could undermine health security elsewhere. Improved international capabilities in surveillance and laboratory detection, especially in low-resource areas, is essential in reducing biological threats and in improving global biosafety and biosecurity.
It has always been accepted that another pandemic was a certainty sometime in the foreseeable future – but all the pandemic planning and surveillance had been predicated on that pandemic being a novel influenza virus, not a coronavirus with many major differences in transmission, pathogenicity and immunogenicity. This requires new approaches in pandemic planning to incorporate non-influenza-like pathogens with different patterns in transmission, pathogenesis and epidemiology.
Not all biological threats have to begin as a bioterrorism event, but as a natural transmission occurrence, although the end result may be an increased potential for such an event. All available evidence would suggest that a novel pandemic pathogen would most probably emerge from a cross-species event emanating from an animal reservoir, perhaps mediated through an intermediary host. This has been recognised by a number of laboratories, and also by some funding organizations, but has not been incorporated into pandemic planning or risk assessments. Two main actions to be taken:
Based on the research presented at the World One Health Conference 2020, this article collection published in One Health Outlook explores all aspects of Global Health Security, including the biosecurity and biothreat landscape. It particularly aims to address the needs to:
- reassess pandemic planning to broaden the scope to other pathogenic agents,
- include pathogen discovery and detection at the human-animal interface to understand the potential for future biological threats.
The collection includes research, reviews, short reports and commentaries exploring One Health science broadly, antimicrobial resistance, the interface between science and policy, and COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 observations, relevant to Global Health Security.