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The Origins of COVID-19 – What scientific research tells us
Three full years into the COVID-19 pandemic and the world still doesn’t have a firm answer about where the virus came from.People who have been studying coronaviruses and other viruses for decades say it’s overwhelmingly likely the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from animals, just as the 2002-2004 SARS virus did, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS virus did, as Ebola does, and as most influenza viruses do.But there’s no smoking gun- no animal being sold for food that carries the virus and that could conceivably have been the source of the pandemic. And that makes people suspicious and leads to speculation that a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China could have been the source.Dr. Felicia Goodrum, professor of immunobiology at the University of Arizona and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Virology, argues that the tone of the current debate is harmful and undermines trust in science.“The result has fueled public confusion and, in many instances, ill-informed condemnation of virology. With this article, we seek to promote a return to rational discourse,” she and colleagues wrote in a recent commentary in the Journal of Virology.“COVID-19 has cast a harsh light on the many cracks, fissures, and disparities in our public health system, and the inability to broadly come together to face a colossal crisis and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable,” they wrote.Listen as Dr. Goodrum tells One World, One Health host Maggie Fox about what’s at stake.
When fungal infections turn deadly
Just about everyone has had an unpleasant fungal encounter, usually something as simple as athlete’s foot, ringworm, or dandruff.But fungal infections can become much more dangerous and even deadly, especially in people whose immune systems are damaged by another infection such as HIV, tuberculosis, or even COVID-19. Mold species such as aspergillus are in the air all the time and when breathed in by someone whose immune system is damaged, they can cause an infection known as aspergillosis. Another infection, candida auris, spreads in hospitals and can kill. More than 300 million people have such infections and 1.5 million die from them, according to recent estimates.In this episode, Dr. David Denning, a retired professor of infectious diseases, global health, and medical mycology at Wythenshawe Hospital and the University of Manchester, chats with One World, One Health host Maggie Fox about the threat of fungal diseases, especially as people alter their environments.Denning is the founding president, executive director, and chief executive of Global Action For Fungal Infections (GAFFI), which focuses on the global impact of fungal disease.Listen as Dr. Denning describes the need for new, resistance-busting medications to fight fungal infections, better testing to diagnose them, and better awareness of the threat.
Helping someone less fortunate feels good, right? But when people from rich countries show up in low- and middle-income countries dispensing goodwill and largesse, their efforts may, at best, be too little and, at worst, could do harm. Dr. Kirk Scirto, a family practice physician in Buffalo, New York, has devoted more than two decades to trying to help others through global health promotion and studying which methods are best for that work. What he’s found may surprise many people. In his book, Doing Global Health Work, he describes how he found it’s more important to listen to people than to try to tell them what to do. In some of the poorest parts of the world, he’s witnessed that people are perfectly able to help themselves and they have a better understanding of what they need than outside "do-gooders."In this episode of One World, One Health, Dr. Scirto tells host Maggie Fox what he’s learned about suitcase medicine and voluntourism and how he’s working to help others make a positive impact without doing harm.
When salty water seeps into a freshwater swamp, the resident alligators risk getting sick and have to fend off invading sharks. Can a monkey scientist and a pirate cat help solve the conflict?Dr. Susannah Sandrin, Clinical Professor in Environmental Science & Science Education at Arizona State University helped make sure the science was sound in this episode of the cartoon series The Octonauts: Above & Beyond. It’s aimed at young children, but Sandrin says it’s important to communicate accurate science to everyone if people are ever to come to grips with the inevitable effects of climate change.Plus, “Everyone responds to goofiness,” Susie says as she chats with One World, One Health host Maggie Fox about her work studying hydrology – the science of water – and studying how best to communicate climate science to kids and adults of all ages.
Treating Antibiotics as Infrastructure
Infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death worldwide, killing tens of millions of people every year. COVID-19 alone has killed more than 6.8 million people, according to Johns Hopkins University. Drug-resistant superbugs directly kill 1.27 million people a year, according to one recent prominent study.Surely drug companies are all over this potentially lucrative market, with so many diseases to fight and treat? However, they aren’t. The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved a new antibiotic since 2019, and only one truly new antibiotic has been approved since 1987.It’s partly because the money just isn’t there. Companies making cancer drugs raised about $7 billion in funding in 2020, while companies making antibiotics raised a fraction of that – just $160 million. Plus, it’s hard to bring a new drug to market. The National Institutes of Health estimates 90% of experimental drugs never even make it to testing in humans.In this episode, we are chatting with Kevin Outterson, a professor of law at Boston University and the founding Executive Director and Principal Investigator of Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator or CARB-X, a global nonprofit partnership funded by the U.S., U.K., and German governments; Wellcome; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.Professor Outterson argues that antibiotics should be treated as infrastructure, and companies making new drugs to fight antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, viruses, and fungi –often called superbugs – should be treated as vital government contractors and paid upfront for the work they do that could save tens of millions of lives. Listen as he describes the problem, and potential solutions, with One World, One Health host Maggie Fox.
Lemurs are cute and interesting, and they live in only one place: Madagascar. As primates, they are related to humans, monkeys, and apes. They are also endangered. Dr. Travis Steffens has wanted to help save lemurs since he was a little boy. On the way to living that dream, he found out that he couldn’t save these animals without also helping the people and the environment. His charity, Planet Madagascar, works to save lemurs and improve the lives of people who live with and near them.In this episode, host Maggie Fox chats with Dr. Steffens, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Guelph. Listen as he describes how lemurs are more than just adorable animals.
Picture This – How images distort global health
Can a picture lie? They can and do – especially when they are used out of context. And photographs and other imagery are regularly abused when it comes to illustrating global health. Available images illustrating disease outbreaks, refugee needs, and even benign public health campaigns routinely show Black and Brown people far more often than they do light-skinned residents of wealthy Western nations. Misery is almost always associated with color.Dr. Esmita Charani of the University of Liverpool and of the Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine at the University of Cape Town, tired of seeing this, did something about it. She and colleagues got the hard data about how public health imagery over-represents the global South. Her work got some attention and sparked some action. The Lancet is now changing the way it uses those images.In this episode of One World, One Health, host Maggie Fox chats with Esmita about how this imbalance happened in the first place, how it’s harmful, and what can be done about it.
Biodefense and Drug Development
From Ebola outbreaks in Africa to the spread of mpox and, of course, COVID, a disease that emerges in one place can threaten people the world over. Governments, nonprofit organizations, and pharmaceutical companies all get involved in detecting and fighting these outbreaks, but there’s another player that flies under the radar.The US military has to prepare and protect personnel and their families, and they don’t keep their work to themselves. Just outside of Washington DC, Ft. Detrick houses a series of laboratories where military and civilian scientists and technicians work together to predict what the next outbreak might be – and to help defend against it.At the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), researchers do the basic science of developing vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments for dangerous germs. In this episode, we visit the labs and speak with Dr. John Dye, deputy director of the Foundational Sciences Directorate at USAMRIID, who tells host Maggie Fox about the threats facing the world, and why the US military is involved in fighting them.
Antibiotics can be wonder drugs. Not only do they save lives, but they can also make farm animals fatten up more quickly. But their overuse hurts everyone as the germs they are designed to kill evolve more and more defenses, giving rise to superbugs that infect people and animals alike.The ROADMAP project aims to find better ways to help farmers and food producers use fewer antibiotics. In this episode of One World, One Health, we’re chatting with Dr. Nicolas Fortané, a senior researcher in sociology at the French Institute for Agricultural Research, part of Paris-Dauphine University.He’s working to understand the relationships that lead to the continued overuse of antibiotics. It’s one thing to ask farmers and veterinarians to lay off these useful drugs but quite another to expect them to lose their livelihoods if they try.Listen as Dr. Nicolas Fortané explains what he has learned about what works.
Can you make a difference for the planet and for your own health if you wait an extra year to update your smartphone or get a new laptop computer?You can if it means using fewer electronics products that are loaded with toxic metals, says Dr. Dele Ogunseitan, a professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California Irvine.In this episode of One World, One Health, Dr. Ogunseitan talks about how even the best-laid plans for recycling electronic products can go awry, and what the consequences can be if TVs, smart appliances, or tablets get into landfills. “Waste should not be endangering your neighbors,” he says.
Gender Inequality and Superbugs
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats people worldwide are fighting – sometimes without even knowing it’s a threat. But germs that have evolved to resist the effects of the drugs used to fight them directly kill more than a million people a year, and they’re a factor in the deaths of close to a million more.And women are far more likely to be infected with and then to spread these drug-resistant superbugs.In this episode of One World, One Health, we’re chatting with Dr. Deepshikha Batheja, an economist and postdoctoral fellow at the One Health Trust. Research has shown that women are 27% more likely than men to be given antibiotics, and Dr. Batheja is researching why that might be – and what can be done about it.
Disease outbreaks are inevitable. Germs are part of our world, and there’s no way to completely eradicate them.But epidemics and pandemics are preventable. Vaccines, better treatments, hygiene, improvements in ventilation, and teaching people how diseases spread can all give individuals and communities the tools they need to contain disease outbreaks before they turn into epidemics and pandemics. Trust in public health and in the governments that administer public health measures is key to making them work.In this episode, Dr. Tom Frieden talks to host Maggie Fox about epidemics that were prevented and how they were stopped. Dr. Frieden is the President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Battling Superbugs with Limited Ammo
Imagine catching an infection that could once be cured with a few pills. But the bug causing your infection has evolved, and now that bottle of pills is useless – and even treatment in a hospital, with drugs dripped in through an IV, isn’t helping. With the emergence of drug-resistant superbugs, this terrifying scene is playing out worldwide, but the greatest burden is faced in low- and middle-income countries.These bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections cost lives, money, and effort. And sometimes, money – even a lot of money – cannot help. In this episode of One World, One Health, Dr. Loice Ombajo, Infectious Disease Specialist and Senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi, tells host Maggie Fox about what she and her colleagues are doing to fight these threats.
Grandmothers are a source of wisdom, support, and influence in most societies around the world. In much of the West, the emphasis is on youth, and western-based groups trying to help people in other parts of the world forget that most cultures rely on extended families.Dr. Judi Aubel, Director of the Grandmother Project, noticed early in her career in public health, adult education, and anthropology that key members of communities were being left out of discussions – the grandmothers. Public health organizations were in effect pitting the grandmothers against the younger generation – and then wondering why their efforts to change practices such as genital mutilation were failing. In this episode, Dr. Aubel chats with us about what her research has shown about the consequences of ignoring culture in international aid efforts, and how bringing Grandma Power to bear as part of the One Health approach can make a difference.
Rabies – Using One Health to Fight the Original Zombie Virus
Lots of factors make rabies the scariest virus known. It kills virtually 100% of its victims, and it’s killing close to 60,000 people a year around the world – many of them young children. Animals can carry and transmit the virus even if they have no symptoms at all, and people can develop a fatal and untreatable infection even if they do not know they’ve been exposed by a bite, scratch, or a drop of saliva. Rabies is probably the basis for myths about zombies and vampires, says Dr. Abi Vanak of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore, India. It’s carried and spread by bats, raccoons, foxes, wolves, and, perhaps most important, dogs.In this episode, Dr. Abi Vanak chats with us about how the One Health approach can help reduce the spread of rabies.
Deforestation and Disease Spread
All humanity relies on forests. Even if you don’t live near one, they produce the air you breathe and are a source of food, clean water, wood, and even medicines.But people are destroying forests at an unprecedented rate, and it’s hurting not just the forests and the animals and plants in them but also human health. Diseases such as Ebola, hantavirus, Zika, chikungunya, and, yes, Covid, can all be traced to human interaction with animals of the forests.In this episode of One World, One Health, Dr. Paula Prist, Senior Research Scientist at the EcoHealth Alliance, tells host Maggie Fox about how some of these diseases emerge and how damaging forests can hurt all of us.
Everyone’s heard the saying about how a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a hurricane half a world away. In this episode, we chat with One Health Trust (OHT) Founder and President Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan about how OHT’s new center in the Nimai Valley outside Bangalore, India, will incorporate this idea into its design and intent. Butterflies are fragile, but vital pollinators, and they can represent how interconnected the world is.So will the Nimai Valley Center, which will be entirely powered by solar energy, will collect its own water, and produce organic foods onsite to help feed researchers, students, and guests from around the world. The hope is to create a space where people can apply One Health concepts to solving the problems of new and old diseases, poor diet, and climate change. The idea is as ancient as the civilizations of South Asia, China, Africa, and the Americas and as modern as the science showing disrupting the environment can fuel the spread of disease, says Ramanan.
Two centuries ago, people could die from a simple scratch. It was the pre-antibiotic era when infections killed babies within hours, a cold could turn deadly within days, and people survived injuries through luck alone.Now a pill can prevent strep throat from turning into scarlet fever and antibiotics keep surgery safe. But because bacteria evolve and mutate so quickly, many drugs are powerless against new strains. The world needs new and better antibiotics.In this episode of One World, One Health, Anand Anandkumar, co-founder and chief executive officer of Bugworks, explains what his company is doing to help discover and develop new antibiotics. Antibiotics are not big money makers for pharmaceutical companies, so Bugworks is putting together funding from governments, charities, and a new kind of motivated investor.Listen as Anand Anandkumar tells host Maggie Fox about what his company is trying to do.
Drug-resistant superbugs are killers. They directly kill more than a million people a year, the World Health Organization says, and contribute to five million deaths a year.But vaccinated people are much less likely to get infected in the first place, so why not make better use of vaccines to fight these superbugs? In this episode, Dr. David Heymann, a veteran of the war against infectious diseases, tells us how vaccines might be put to better use to prevent antimicrobial-resistant organisms.Dr. David Heymann spent more than 25 years at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 20 of those years on secondment to the World Health Organization. He is also a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Are We Losing the Fight Against Malaria Once Again?
In this episode, Dr. Nicholas White of the University of Oxford in the UK and Mahidol University in Thailand tells us how the world is losing ground in the fight against malaria, in no small part because of the emergence of resistance.Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, and these parasites have repeatedly evolved to escape the effects of drug after drug over the decades. Now, Dr. White argues, there’s a chance to get out ahead of this resistance. How?Listen as he tells our host Maggie Fox how the parasite manages to evade the effects of drugs and what he thinks needs to be done to stop it from happening yet again.