About this Research Topic
The devastation caused by the emergence, re-emergence, or deliberate release of infectious diseases has led to numerous international efforts in building national, regional, and international capacities to counter natural, accidental, and deliberate biological incidents. These investments have been supported by several sectors, including public health, animal health, research, and security. These sectors became involved in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the realization that state and non-state actors sought to use biological agents to cause harm, with the deliberate release of anthrax spores in the U.S. mail in 2001, and the emergence of H5N1 influenza virus, West Nile Virus, and SARS-CoV.
These events led to significant international investments to a) develop detection technologies for early identification of potential outbreaks of international concern; b) develop new diagnostics and platform technologies that leverage advances in molecular analysis (e.g., PCR and next-generation sequencing) and point-of-care technologies; c) develop vaccines and therapeutics against pathogens and toxins of greatest concern (e.g. Ebola vaccine and smallpox treatments); d) characterize pathogens and toxins, as well as their response in hosts; and e) enhance partner countries for preventing malicious exploitation of pathogens, detecting incidents early on, and responding to suspicious incidents. Several pathogen surveillance systems were established during this time, including ProMED-mail, the World Health Organization's Global Outbreak Alert, Response Network, Canada's Global Public Health Intelligence Network, the U.S.'s BioSense and Essence, amongst other platforms. In addition, the public health communities received support to enhance their capacities to prepare for and respond to chemical and biological attacks. The policy landscape has changed to support such efforts, including the International Health Regulations, core capacities, and the Global Health Security Agenda.
These investments simultaneously led to the development of new scientific and technological advances that provide the necessary tools for achieving the prevention, detection, preparedness, response, and recovery goals. However, some of the research conducted for these activities have raised concerns among the scientific, security, and policy communities about their potential risks. In 2012, two publications on the H5N1 influenza virus were flagged as having dual-use potential, focusing specifically on biosecurity concerns. In 2014, the U.S. government called for deliberative processes to analyze the risks and benefits of gain-of-function studies involving respiratory pathogens, focusing exclusively on certain influenza, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV research. This effort focused on assessing the biosafety risks, benefits, and biosecurity and information hazard risks. More recently, concerns have been raised about the resurrection of the horsepox virus, a close relative of the vaccinia virus, from sequence alone.
In this Research Topic, we propose to focus on critical, intersecting scientific, security, and health issues associated with investments to prevent, detect, and respond to highly pathogenic pathogens, particularly those that could result in outbreaks of international concern. We would like to have a combination of articles (Original Research, Reviews, Mini-Reviews, Perspectives, Methods, and Brief research Reports) that deal with the following, but not limited to, sub-topics:
- Scientific advances in rapid diagnostic assays/methods of emerging infectious diseases and implementation of their prevention (i.e. new vaccines, surveillance systems)
- Methods for outbreak identification and containment
- Studies on International efforts to improve capabilities and infrastructures to prevent natural and man-made incidents, as well as policy efforts that affect these activities, and featured activities such as CEPI, the Alliance for Health Security, and the Global Health Security Index
Topic Editor Dr. Kavita Berger is employed by Gryphon Scientific and declares no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic Subject.
Topic Editor Dr. Anna Rosa Garbuglia declares no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic subject.
Keywords: Zoonoses, Dual Use Research, Medical Countermeasures, High Containment Laboratories, Information Hazards
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