Research Topic

Biosafety and Biosecurity Approaches to Counter SARS-CoV-2: From Detection to Best Practices and Risk Assessments

About this Research Topic

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of Coronavirus Disease 19, commonly referred to as COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in 2019 and is currently responsible for a global pandemic that resulted in more than 7,193,438 cases worldwide and 408,613 deaths by June 2020. The ...

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of Coronavirus Disease 19, commonly referred to as COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in 2019 and is currently responsible for a global pandemic that resulted in more than 7,193,438 cases worldwide and 408,613 deaths by June 2020. The large number of asymptomatic cases hides the true number of infected individuals and probably results in an overestimation of the case fatality rate of 5.68%. However, many deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 have also gone unreported.

Much of the research to date has centered on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, its pathogenesis, and vaccines and diagnostics for the prevention and detection of COVID-19, respectively. Surface expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) protein, the receptor for SARS CoV 2 has been observed on lung alveolar epithelial cells and enterocytes of the small intestine. ACE2 is also present on arterial and venous endothelial cells and arterial smooth muscle cells in oral and nasal mucosa, nasopharynx, lung, stomach, small intestine, colon, skin, lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow, spleen, liver, kidney, and brain which may explain the ability of COVID-19 to infect multiple organs in the body and not remain localized to the respiratory tract. Severe illness associated with COVID 19 has been observed in individuals with comorbidities such as hypertension, heart disease, active cancer in the past five years, chronic kidney disease, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a history of stroke, or chronic liver disease. Individuals who are older than 65 years of age, individuals who are pregnant, and individuals who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed (e.g., HIV infection) are also at risk for severe disease. SARS CoV2 is widely distributed and readily available in many clinical and research laboratories across the world at the current time.

This begs the question as to what the potential biosafety and biosecurity implications are for laboratories working with viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 to ensure that we do not reintroduce the virus at a later time given the fact that many members of the population are still very vulnerable to this disease. Although we have learned a lot over the past several months about SARS-CoV-2, a lot of unknowns remain. In order to be able to conduct a proper risk assessment or to better support laboratory practices, preparedness and response to COVID-19, additional guidelines, policies and procedures are needed. The goal of this effort will be to identify and share best laboratory safety and security practices from lessons learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Biosafety and biosecurity serve as the cornerstone for the laboratory containment of highly transmissible and pathogenic microorganisms to protect public health by preventing the next outbreak, epidemic or pandemic through natural, inadvertent or intentional introduction. The editors are requesting manuscripts that address the following and other related topics:
a. What do we know about SARS-CoV2 and how can it be used to conduct a proper risk assessment prior to initiating laboratory research on SARS-CoV-2.
b. What are the best safety and security practices for working with SARS-CoV-2 (and other emerging viruses) and bats in laboratories?
c. What do we not know about SARS-CoV-2 to guide future research activities to better support risk assessments?
d. What should be the guidance for working in a laboratory or vivarium during the COVID-19 pandemic?
e. What should be the guidance for generating recombinant (mutant) SARS-CoV-2 and their use in animal studies?
f. The importance of the Institutional BioSafety Committee and how it should be structured to provide the best benefit.
g. What are the challenges faced by laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to overcome them?
h. Guidelines for validating molecular, serological and antibody-based tests used to identify COVID-19 infection and to minimize lack of sensitivity or specificity during a pandemic response.
i. How can the lessons learned be applied in developing as well as developed countries? What is the current situation and COVID-19 molecular epidemiology in developing countries?
j. What types of surveillance systems are required for the future?
k. What are the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic (or any pandemic) for the security of nations?
l. How does the COVID-19 pandemic compare with other pandemics (e.g., HIV, SARS, Spanish Flu, H1N1, etc.) with respect to national security and economic impact?

The type of manuscripts may be a review, original research, method, or commentary. Due to the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 situation, Frontiers is waiving all article publishing charges for COVID-19 related research.

Prof. Morse, Prof. Qiu, Prof. Huang and Dr. Pillai hold patents on the uses of Gonorrhea for detection and vaccines, the Bocavirus vector, the uses of porcine viruses for vaccines and diagnosis, and antimicrobial resistance respectively. The Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic theme.


Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, Biosafety, Biosecurity, Risk Assessment, Laboratory Practices


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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