Melbourne, March 27
Researchers have developed a tool that can assist in determining whether the pathogen behind an epidemic is natural or lab-made, an advance that may help better investigate the origins of outbreaks like the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the scientists, including those from the University of New South Wales in Australia, it is usually assumed that every outbreak is natural in origin, and does not routinely include risk assessments for unnatural origins.
In the study, published in the journal Risk Analysis, they developed a modified form of an assessment tool called GFT (mGFT) which has been validated against previous outbreaks.
The tool contains 11 criteria for determining if an outbreak is of unnatural origin, the researchers said.
It assesses if there is presence of a political or terrorist environment from which a biological attack could originate.
The tool also checks if the pathogenic organism may be atypical, rare, antiquated, new emerging, with mutations or different origins, genetically edited or created by synthetic biotechnology.
Such pathogens, the scientists said, may demonstrate increased virulence, unusual environmental sustainability, resistance to prophylactic and therapeutic measures, or difficulty in detection and identification.
The mGFT tool also analyses special aspects of the biological agent to see if it has been genetically manipulated.
It also checks for peculiarities of the geographic distribution of disease.
The researchers explained that it is unusual from an epidemiological perspective, if the disease, is identified in a region concerned for the first time ever or again after a long period of time.…Summary on