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What if the Winter race becomes zoonotic?

LED Stories

Elias Hakalehto, PhD, Adj. Prof.

Microbiologist,Biotechnologist

CEO, Finnoflag Oy

Vice President,International Society of Environmental Indicators

Fellow Member,International Society for Development and Sustainability (ISDS) (Japan)

Published 18th of January, 2022

Some weeks ago, there was an awakening piece of news in the global media. Namely, an 11-year old snow leopard, "Rilu", had died in the park zoo in Bloomington, Illinois, USA. This noble animal was the victim of the Covid-19 disease brought there by the human visitors of the animal park. This sad episode underlines the zoonotic nature of the current pandemics.

During these exceptional times, the governments should safeguard their citizens and keep the healthcare system functional. This has demanded enormous resources already by now, but most likely, if we wish to get out of the crisis, increasing efforts are necessary. Most evidently, they should have been initiated decades ago. - Nevertheless, the protection of the threatened animal should not get forgotten amidst the nearly chaotic circumstances. It is noteworthy that such decisions as to the Danish one almost 14 months ago (November 4) to kill all the millions of captivated minks on her 1138 farms for fur production at once are not the most recommendable ones by any means. Although there was a new mutant (known as DFVI-spike) that had infected humans in this particular case, neither could such measures solve the problems caused by the lack of adapting human economics to that of Nature, the latter of which have been capable of maintaining life for thousands of years. After all, we live on the same planet, in the same boat, with all the animals.

Although some animal species are transmitting their seemingly endless viral variants zoonotically capable of jumping to humans, we should not blame these innocent creatures for the epidemic situation. Also, if the birds were to be blamed for spreading the avian flu, the solution is not to get rid of all of them, especially the wild ones. In fact, it is the manmade series of ecocatastrophes that has induced the migrators of the skies, birds and bats - or aeroplanes - to become the carriers of the contagious agents. In addition to minks, other known species to transfer SARS-CoV-2 to humans and back are several felids such as tigers, lions and puma, that have been reported to be susceptible, as well as ferrets, domestic cats and dogs or white-tailed deer. In any case, it should not be the precaution of choice to eliminate those animals.

So, besides the snow leopards and the other ones mentioned above, many more species are vulnerable to the Covid-19 disease. According to the French National Academy of Medicine and Veterinary Academy (on November 24, 2020), these include fruit bats, raccoon dogs, golden hamsters, rabbit and rhesus monkeys in the laboratories. However, lab rats and mice seem to be resistant and pigs and poultry.

But the real risks are determined in individual cases according to the potential routes of contaminations, infective doses and the susceptibility of those responsible for the animal care. If we look around freely, suitable methods are available to obtain better protection.

We could have started using the prophylactic means quicker, right after the onset of the pandemics. For example, on January 10, a preprint of the human tests by IgY chicken egg yolk antibodies was published  (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.07. 22268914v1.full.pdf+html). This method for protecting human populations by passive immunization against viruses was suggested and tested already in 1996-98 by the Finnish researchers (1. Hakalehto, E., Kuronen, I. Therapeutic and preventive method against harmful microbes. International Patent Application, 1997; WO 97/37636, and 2. Hakalehto, E., Kuronen, I. A method for producing jelly sweets that contain antibodies. International Patent Application,1998; WO 98/43610). According to Australian research and tests with hamsters and frets, which demonstrated that protocol to be safe.

Soon after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemics, in June 2020, the undersigned gathered together with the Swedish colleagues, an international team of top scientists and Finland, Sweden, Poland, and Israel institutions. We submitted an application to the European Union proposing the development of IgY techniques using chicken egg yolk antibodies as therapeutic means and a protective method, which unfortunately was abandoned. This molecular shield by epithelial antibodies could have given extra protection in support of the vaccinations and still could provide this.

As the undersigned has published as his strong opinion about the role of the human microbiome in health protection in the book "Alimentary Microbiome - A PMEU Approach" in 2012 (by Nova Science Publishers Inc., New York, USA), that the balance of the digestive tract microbiome called Bacteriological Intestinal Balance (BIB) is one biological factor protecting us against various epidemics. This has been confirmed these days by the finding that less severe occurrence of Covid-19 in Japan, Korea and Finland in average, could occur as a consequence of the higher prevalence of Collinsella sp. in those countries in comparison with the others (Hirayama, M., Nishiwaki, H., Hamaguchi, T., Ito, M., Ueyama, J., Maeda, T., Kashihara, K., Tsuboi, Y., Ohno, K., 2021. Intestinal Collinsella may mitigate infection and exacerbation of COVID-19 by producing ursodeoxycholate). The article was published on November 23, 2021, in the top scientific journal PLOS One. - Ten years after the publication of the "Alimentary Microbiome", at the beginning of 2022, the oldest publishing house in Germany (Berlin), Walter De Gruyter GmbH, published our book "Microbiology of Food Hygiene - Challenges in the Food Production and Distribution During and After the Pandemics". One of the chapters in this book is "Different Strategies for Viral and Bacterial Prevention and Eradication from Foods" by Hakalehto, E., Heitto, A., Adusei-Mensah, F., Pesola, A., Pesola, J. and Armon, R. This piece of work introduces and suggests various means for the microbiological confinement of pandemics.

In case of human illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, a profound article will get published in Nature magazine in early 2022. The report demonstrates the dysregulation of several autoantibodies associated with severe Covid-19. This could, in turn explain the molecular mechanisms for tissue damage, vein inflammation or brain damage-causing Covid-19 disease, for instance. The forthcoming article has a team of over 30 authors from nearly ten countries, led by Israeli Academician, professor Yehuda Shoenfeld, the long-time leader of Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmunity Research at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, rated as 8th best hospital globally. At the same time, there are numerous other reports about the long Covid risks that could occur in about 50% of the patient cases, even the asymptomatic ones. In conclusion, it is not worth saying that the Covid-19 or any variant of this virus would be completely or almost harmless.

On the contrary, the societies will struggle against the weakened populations' long-term consequences. The situation is dramatic in many countries. The warmer season may bring temporary relief but not wipe out the pandemics. Therefore, we actually need a novel branch for medical studies, "the post-pandemic damage healing". This will be a multidisciplinary field of study, but it will deal with patients whose health and defences have been more or less ruined as a consequence the suffered Covid-19 infection. In practice, the symptomatology will get formed as a result of not only the viral disease, but the accompanying bacterial complications, tissue and organ damage, autoimmune disease provoked, side effects of vaccinations and medications, psychological distortion, microbiological misbalance, untreated secondary illnesses and so on and so worth.

In the light of these worrisome scenarios, we should finally understand that Covid-19 in any of its forms is not a "soft" or "mild" sickness but a deteriorating multi-symptom state and failure, which will have new manifestations coming up during the illness. Consequently, not any population is the same as before from the public health point of view. The growing children are not having of healthy prospects for development. Thus, future medicine should focus on repairing these damages collectively and individually. One essential aspect is the healing and reconstitutive power of the microbial communities. The discipline of curative microbiome studies should be established the soonest, since the microbiological balance is the foundation of a healthy body system, and it will protect us from any further damage or dangerous complications.

To avoid the worst outcomes, to protect the societies and future generations, we need to establish new thinking, based on full understanding on microbiology, immunology and integrative medicine. No budgeting or other excuses should be acceptable, but the free exchange of ideas must flourish to avoid catastrophes. The environmental hazards, pandemics, and their aftermath is the ultimate challenge and the worst obstacle on the way to secure and happier societies.

As a "life raft" on the open seas of multitudes of microbial strains and variants, societies should have their ongoing research effort to control the risks. Once a viral or bacterial pathogen has distributed globally, the damage it has caused to immunity, tissues and their functions or epithelia, or the public health in general, cannot be healed in a week or few months. Still, it will take years of determined action, clear goals and focus. In other words, this makes life more complicated and the health picture more diversified, which requires real innovation to handle the situation and to prevent it from worsening any further. For instance, antimicrobial devices should be designed for various purposes and spaces. The basic innovations of UVC light usage, disinfecting vapours, or various disinfectants and antimicrobials should be developed quickly. The risks of complications are tangible in the surgery clinics, elderly homes, health services, food distribution etc. Who will sustain the healthcare system or food services if the conditions become unbearable? - No war will be a solution for Mankind, but the war against ignorance—also that of the microscopic scale.

Consequently, we could have a strategy and approach that could have protected a significant proportion of the human population and that playful snow leopard "Rilu". Emerging research should metamorphose into clinical applications the soonest.

In the coming months and years, a powerful thing for the direction or development of the societies is not when we could get back to the "normal", but how well we could foresee the threats and mitigate them in a timely manner. The Sars-CoV-2 virus will most likely appear as novel variants, emerging out of human and zoonotic contagions pool. As the resistance of the people and the readiness of the societies has decreased, the likelihood of dangerous complications, in the form of long Covid, novel mutations and variants, bacterial infections and antibiotic-resistant strains, will unavoidably occur as epidemics locally or globally. During the "Spanish Flu", more than a century ago, 70% of the total death toll of 50-100M was due to bacterial infections. We should indeed be prepared for such avalanches as terrifying worst potential outcomes of the prolonged pandemics. The readiness of the societies could hopefully fade out these nightmares. We need solidarity and joint activity.

We must recognize the facts in order to survive. Restoration of the delicate structures of microbiological communities and ecosystems will be the solution. This strategy will ultimately work both in Nature and the mosaic of health.

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