Biosecurity
Biosecurity & pandemics
Managing biological risks and preparing humanity for possible future pandemics

Quick takes

31
2mo
5
Trump recently said in an interview (https://time.com/6972973/biden-trump-bird-flu-covid/) that he would seek to disband the White House office for pandemic preparedness. Given that he usually doesn't give specifics on his policy positions, this seems like something he is particularly interested in. I know politics is discouraged on the EA forum, but I thought I would post this to say: EA should really be preparing for a Trump presidency. He's up in the polls and IMO has a >50% chance of winning the election. Right now politicians seem relatively receptive to EA ideas, this may change under a Trump administration.
41
9mo
4
Longtermist shower thought: what if we had a campaign to install Far-UVC in poultry farms? Seems like it could: 1. Reduce a bunch of diseases in the birds, which is good for: a. the birds’ welfare; b. the workers’ welfare; c. Therefore maybe the farmers’ bottom line?; d. Preventing/suppressing human pandemics (eg avian flu) 2. Would hopefully drive down the cost curve of Far-UVC 3. May also generate safety data in chickens, which could be helpful for derisking it for humans Insofar as one of the main obstacles is humans' concerns for health effects, this would at least only raise these for a small group of workers.
8
3mo
1
Quote from VC Josh Wolfe: https://overcast.fm/+5AWO95pnw/46:15
7
3mo
I'm working on an article about gene drives to eradicate malaria, and am looking for biology experts who can help me understand certain areas I'm finding confusing and fact check claims I feel unsure about. If you are a masters or grad student in biology and would be interested in helping, I would be incredibly grateful.   An example of a question I've been trying to answer today: How likely is successful crossbreeding between subspecies of Anopheles Gambiae (such as anopheles gambiae s.s. and anopheles arabiensis), and how likely is successful crossbreeding between anopheles gambiae and other complexes?   If you know the answer to questions like these or would have an easy time finding it out, send me a dm! Happy to pay for your time.
4
2mo
I happened to be reading this paper on antiviral resistance ("Antiviral drug resistance as an adaptive process" by Irwin et al) and it gave me an idea for how to fight the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Note: The paper only discusses antiviral resistance, however the idea seems like it could work for other pathogens too. I won't worry about that distinction for the rest of this post. The paper states: This makes intuitive sense: If there was no fitness cost associated with antiviral resistance, there's a good chance the virus would already be resistant to the antiviral. More quotes: So basically it seems like if I start taking an antiviral, any virus in my body might evolve resistance to the antiviral, but this evolved resistance is likely to harm its fitness in other ways. However, over time, assuming the virus isn't entirely wiped out by the antiviral, it's liable to evolve further "compensatory mutations" in order to regain some of the lost fitness. Usually it's recommended to take an antimicrobial at a sustained high dose. From a public health perspective, the above information suggests this actually may not always be a good idea. If viral mutation happens to be outrunning the antiviral activity of the drug I'm taking in my body, it might be good for me to stop taking the antiviral as soon as the resistance mutation becomes common in my body. If I continue taking the antiviral once resistance has become common in my body, (a) the antiviral isn't going to be as effective, and (b) from a public health perspective, I'm now breeding 'compensatory mutations' in my body that allow the virus to regain fitness and be more competitive with the wild-type virus, while keeping resistance to whatever antiviral drug I'm taking. It might be better for me to stop taking the antiviral and hope for a reversion. Usually we think in terms of fighting antimicrobial resistance by developing new techniques to fight infections, but the above suggests an alternative path: F
11
8mo
1
There is a natural alliance that I haven't seen happen, but both are in my network: pandemic preparedness and covid-caution. Both want clean indoor air. The latter group of citizens is a very mixed group, with both very reasonable people and unreasonable 'doomers'. Some people have good reason to remain cautious around COVID: immunocompromised people & their household, or people with a chronic illness, especially my network of people with Long Covid, who frequently (~20%) worsen from a new COVID case. But these concerned citizens want clean air, and are willing to take action to make that happen. Given that the riskiest pathogens trend to also be airborne like SARS-COV-2, this would be a big win for pandemic preparedness. Specifically, I believe both communities are aware of the policy objectives below and are already motivated to achieve it:   1) Air quality standards (CO2, PM2.5) in public spaces. Schools are especially promising from both perspectives, given that parents are motivated to protect their children & children are the biggest spreaders of airborne diseases. Belgium has already adopted regulations (although very weak, it's a good start), showing that this is a tractable policy goal. Ideally, air quality standards also incentivize Far UVC deployment, which would create the regulatory certainty for companies to invest in this technology. Including standards for airborne pathogen concentrations would be great, but has many technical limitations at the moment I think.   2) Public R&D investments to bring down cost & establish safety of Far UVC Most of these concerned citizens are actually aware of Far UVC and would support this measure. It appears safe in terms of no radiation damage, but may create unhealthy compounds (e.g. ozone) by chemically reacting with indoor air particles.  I also believe that governments have good reasons to adopt these policies, given that they would reduce the pressures on healthcare and could reduce the disease burde
4
2mo
I am concerned about the H5N1 situation in dairy cows and have written and overview document to which I occasionally add new learnings (new to me or new to world). I also set up a WhatsApp community that anyone is welcome to join for discussion & sharing news. In brief: * I believe there are quite a few (~50-250) humans infected recently, but no sustained human-to-human transmission * I estimate the Infection Fatality Rate substantially lower than the ALERT team (theirs is 63% that CFR >= 10%), something like 80%CI = 0.1 - 5.0 * The government's response is astoundingly bad - I find it insane that raw milk is still being sold, with a high likelihood that some of it contains infectious H5N1 * There are still quite a few genetic barriers to sustained human-to-human transmission * This might be a good time to push specific pandemic preparedness policies
4
3mo
4
Given how bird flu is progressing (spread in many cows, virologists believing rumors that humans are getting infected but no human-to-human spread yet), this would be a good time to start a protest movement for biosafety/against factory farming in the US.
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