Mitigating Biosecurity Challenges of Wildlife Virus Discovery
14 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2022 Last revised: 7 Sep 2022
Date Written: February 14, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked renewed calls for wildlife virus discovery efforts to predict emerging zoonotic diseases. In this Perspective, we highlight safety and security risks associated with large-scale viral collection and characterisation efforts. We present risk mitigation strategies and argue for more emphasis on cost-benefit comparison between different approaches. Accidents may be minimised by developing and adopting international standards for sample collection, indirect wildlife sampling of waterways and faecal droppings, and maintaining a culture of continuous learning around laboratory biocontainment. The laboratory characterisation of human infectivity and associated identification of pandemic-capable viruses might proliferate the ability to create pandemics. Systems for responsible and equitable access to genomic data and computational tools may help to mitigate risks. In light of the contested benefits and unique risks of large-scale wildlife virus discovery, a focus on One Health surveillance and behavioural interventions targeted at the human-animal interface may be both superior for preventing natural epidemics and reducing the risk from accidental and deliberate emergence.
Funding: JBS’ and JA’s doctoral research is funded by Open Philanthropy.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
Keywords: biosecurity, biosafety, zoonotic risk prediction, viral surveillance, One Health, dual-use, COVID-19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation