The Next Pandemic

It will most likely be caused by a virus, not by a bacterium or some other kind of bug. More specifically, we should expect an RNA virus (specifically, one that bears its genome as a single molecular strand), as distinct from a DNA virus (carrying its info on the reliable double helix, less prone to mutation, therefore less variable and adaptable). Finally, this RNA virus will almost certainly be zoonotic — a pathogen that emerges from some nonhuman animal to infect, and spread among, human beings.

More on the Next Big One in the NYT.

Comments (8)

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  1. Lucy Hender says:

    Scary…to say the least!

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    What happens when someone modifies an existing organism, weaponizing its genome?

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    Places where different species of animals are raised in very close proximity — using the feces of one to feed another — is a likely place for this to emerge.

  4. Robert says:

    This is really funny to me, as the movie I Am Legend was on TV last night. In it, they create a cure for cancer by genetically reengineering the measles virus. It mutates, goes airborne, and things get out of control. Makes for a good movie, but I could also see it as a real-world possibility.

    I agree with Joe, don’t underestimate the human potential.

  5. Jordan says:

    Have to agree with Joe as well. Lloyd Dumas wrote a book called “The Technology Trap,” which talks a lot about this. Bioterrorism is supposed to be the next big thing.

  6. Ender says:

    I definitely see how this could be a possibility especially given the swine and bird flus.

  7. Alex says:

    We beat the last great pandemics, we can beat the next one. The only question is what the human cost will be.

  8. August says:

    I wasn’t aware SARS was so close.

    “SARS is a zoonosis that emerged from a Chinese bat, fanned out of Hong Kong to the wider world, threatened to be the Next Big One, and then was stopped — barely — by fast and excellent medical science.”