(UnitedVoice.com) – As Americans, and the world, grow tired of the daily chorus of COVID-19 threats, some scientists say there could be a long-term solution to preventing deadly viruses and bacteria in the future. Today, medical researchers are making incredible advancements in treating cancer and other diseases. Yesterday’s impossibles are no longer impossible. As some scientists study and learn more about viruses and bacteria, their genetics, and how they spread, a new idea shows promise in eradicating deadly diseases. Regardless of the benefits, it isn’t without considerable controversy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 6 out of 10 known infectious diseases can spread from animals to humans. Currently, 3 out of 4 new or emerging diseases jumped from animals to people. Some believe this was COVID-19’s origin story. Now, scientists say they can create a self-spreading vaccine for wildlife to efficiently and quickly end the spread of deadly diseases.
Are Self-Spreading Vaccines More Dangerous Than Beneficial?
When a new disease like COVID-19 emerges, it’s often lethal to people with compromised immune systems and can cause long-term ailments even to those with strong immune responses. In addition, there are also tremendous costs to society and nations’ economies. For over 200 years, vaccines were doctors’ principal means of protecting patients from major illness or death. In 1796, a doctor created a vaccine for cowpox. In 1798, a researcher formulated the first smallpox vaccine, and doctors eradicated the disease in 1979.
In the 1980s, scientists began studying genetics to learn how to alter viruses that spread from animals to humans. On March 18, National Geographic published an article on the potential and risk of self-spreading vaccines. Numerous scientists told the publication the possibility now exists to create a self-spreading vaccine that could be administered to wildlife to prevent diseases such as Ebola, tuberculosis, rabies, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, the plague, and more.
Because it’s illegal to administer vaccines to humans without their consent, scientists went to the source of many diseases — animals. Advocates for the self-spreading vaccines say they could transform public health and help stop a future pandemic. Yet, those who oppose the idea say there are far more potentially dangerous outcomes than benefits. Some say the vaccine could mutate and jump from animals to humans. Another wholly unintended consequence could be the devastation of wildlife ecosystems.
Some Scientists Warn of Serious Consequences
Jonas Sandbrink, a biosecurity researcher at the University of Oxford, warned once something is engineered and released into the wild, there’s no way to know where it will go or how it will impact wildlife or society. Aside from the obvious potential a vaccine could evolve and jump from animals to humans, there’s no way to know what the dangers to people could be in the event of a mass spread of the vaccine.
There are also other considerations. If wildlife loses susceptibility to a disease, the ecosystem could lose its ability to control animal populations. Rodents could destroy crops, contaminate human food and drinking water, and create unsanitary living conditions. Scientists even say the evidence is mounting viruses and bacteria counterbalance one another. What would happen if one side of that equation went unchecked?
So, the question is, does the world really need a self-spreading vaccine?
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