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Medicine Science

Sizing Up the Viral Threat 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-that-facemelting-plague-away-from-me dept.
sciencehabit writes "Ebola, HIV, influenza, MERS. Plenty of animal viruses cause devastating diseases in humans. But nature might have many more in store. In a new study, U.S. researchers estimate that there are more than 320,000 unknown viruses lurking in mammals alone (abstract). Identifying all the viruses in mammals would be a huge boon to scientists and epidemiologists, Daszak says. If an animal virus begins spreading to humans, they could use the new sequences to quickly pinpoint its source. In the lab, they could study the newfound viruses to see which are most likely to jump to humans and then prepare vaccines or drugs, he says. 'It would be the beginning of the end for pandemics.' A complete viral inventory would also carry a hefty price tag: about $6.3 billion, the authors estimate. 'But you have to put that into perspective,' says Daszak, pointing to the 2003 SARS outbreak. That pandemic alone is estimated to have cost between $15 billion and $50 billion in economic losses."
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Sizing Up the Viral Threat

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  • Vaccines... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:16PM (#44751419)

    That's all fine and dandy and all, but remember, people are getting so stupid that they think vaccines are more sinister than the viral diseases they can prevent. Lets solve the problem of stupid people first, or just let them all die of measles++.

  • When Not If (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wrackspurt (3028771) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:17PM (#44751423)
    It's not really a question of if we'll complete such an inventory but when. A few days ago /. ran a story on the myth of STEM human resources being scarce, so it's not like we lack the people or the resources. It's just a question of allocation. Over our short personal lifespans we see so much that should be done and think it should be done ASAP, but really, if you look at the enormous strides we've made in the last 100 years, or more to the point, the last 50 years we've surpassed all previous human eras of progressive achievement. The Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment pale by comparison.
  • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:18PM (#44751429)
    "A complete viral inventory would also carry a hefty price tag: about $6.3 billion, the authors estimate."

    Better hurry, since if we wait 10 or 20 years, that price tag might only be a couple of million. Think of the authors, who have new shoes to buy!

    Life's a risk, you live, you die. Society can't handle the costs of current increases to lifetimes. Extending lives is not a de facto good thing.
  • Wishful Thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:20PM (#44751441) Homepage Journal

    In the lab, they could study the newfound viruses to see which are most likely to jump to humans and then prepare vaccines or drugs, he says. 'It would be the beginning of the end for pandemics.'

    No, it would just be yet another volley in the endless war of attrition that is the evolution of species... but I like your optimism.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:44PM (#44751589) Journal

    Hey, I have an idea. Let's all firmly lodge our heads up our asses and make believe that not studying potential health threats means there won't be any health threats.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:47PM (#44752689)

    lets give them that money to "study the newfound viruses to see which are most likely to jump to humans". I'm sure that could never end up being abused.

    Give me a call when that "abuse" is up to 0.1% of our spending on the military-industrial complex, the educational-industrial complex, or bonuses for running successful scams in finance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:15PM (#44753147)

    The smart money isn't on the researchers, because the sheer
    numbers alone favor the occurrence of a virus which might just be
    the golden bullet in terms of its ability to spread combined with its
    morbidity.

    And today more than ever, with air travel and international shipping of
    things like chicken and meat, the virus has a better chance of finding
    new hosts in widespread areas than it ever had before.

    The US and other countries WILL regret importing food from China,
    mark my words well and remember them when you bury your loved
    ones this year, or the next, or the year after that. Thanks to
    the idiocy and greed of government everywhere, the probability of a
    worldwide pandemic is now down to only a question of when, not if.

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