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  • Writer's pictureSwaha Chakraborty

Potential Pandemic Pathogens - Hazard

Expand the Definition of a Potential Pandemic Pathogen Regulations to increase biosafety with Gain of Function Research of Concern can also be furthered by adapting past legislation. In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed a framework called the “Pathogen Care and Oversight Framework”, or the “HHS P3CO Framework.”. The purpose of this framework was to oversee government funding decisions made regarding research that “is intended to guide HHS funding decisions on individual proposed research that is reasonably anticipated to create, transfer, or use enhanced PPPs.”. The type of research the document is referring to is known as ePPP Research, or Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogen Research. In 2016, the United States National Science Advisory Board (NSAB) defined two requirements necessary for research to be considered ePPP or GOFROC. First, “The pathogen generated is likely highly transmissible and likely capable of wide and uncontrollable spread in human populations” and “The pathogen generated is likely highly virulent and likely to cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans”.

While this ePPP framework identifies the two major factors of risk when experimenting on pathogens (transmissibility and virulence), it is not enough to ensure biosafety. The 2019 coronavirus is an example of a pathogen being highly transmissible, yet moderately virulent (it approximately had an infection-fatality ratio of 1%, which is relatively mild when compared to other viruses, such as Ebola Sudan’s 50%). Despite this, COVID-19’s impact, on an international level, was tragic. This suggests that even viruses with low or average virulence can cause high mortality if its transmissibility is high enough. For that reason, expanding the definition of ePPP research to include all pathogens that are expected to demonstrate efficient human transmission, regardless of virulence should be made. This effectively broadens the scope of pathogens required to be reviewed under the P3CO framework, strengthening biosafety measures.

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