Books That Marked My Life … By José María Fernández Sousa-Faro

The president of Pharmamar has always been a great lover of the historical novel, but due to the Covid-19 crisis, if I had to recommend a book it would be ‘The Deadliest Threat’, by Michael T. Ostherholm. The work, published a year before the outbreak of the pandemic, accurately anticipates some scenarios that we are experiencing today.

I remember my father telling me that he would always give me any book I asked for with my commitment to read it. I have always been fond of reading, especially of historical novels.

There are several books that I have liked a lot, but at the moment that we are living through the Covid-19 pandemic, the book that I would recommend reading today would be The most lethal threat (Deadliest Enemy) written by Dr. Michael T. Osterholm and published a year before we knew of the existence of the SARS-2 virus, so it is very interesting when the threat that the book anticipates is fulfilled.

I confess that I read this book once the pandemic was already established, and three chapters caught my attention because of how premonitory they were.

One of them is dedicated to the influenza virus, since the author thinks that the greatest danger in the making is a new variant of the influenza virus that causes deaths, especially in children, as happened with the so-called Spanish flu of 1918 and which produced between 50 and 100 million deaths on the planet. He believes that another pandemic of a new influenza virus will occur for sure, although we do not know when. This threat is also predicted by Rob Wallace in his book Big Farms, Big Flu.

Another interesting chapter is that of Coronaviruses, where Michael Osterholm predicted that SARS1 and MERS would be followed by other dangerous coronaviruses for humans and we have seen that this prediction has been fulfilled and, unfortunately, SARS-2 has already been charged 4 , 5 million lives on the planet.

There is another chapter dedicated to the GOF ( Gain of Function ) experiments of gain of function in viruses that were / are being carried out and which, in my view, are extremely dangerous and only make military sense. These experiments are aimed at causing a virus to acquire a new function that it did not have before and make them more lethal.

It is more than likely that these types of experiments were being carried out in the high-security laboratories of Wuhan with the human coronaviruses SARS 1 and MERS and with bat coronaviruses such as RaTG13. And that, despite the high security of these laboratories, there would have been an escape most likely because an operator was infected by the new Coronavirus resulting from a directed investigation or by an accident of recombination of the genomes of two coronaviruses (it is described that the coronaviruses recombine their genes easily), who was asymptomatic long enough to spread it.

Dr. Oesterholm was concerned that these types of experiments are being carried out and also, unfortunately, time has proved him right.

Reading the book has a very important message and that is that we have to do much more research to be as prepared as possible for all emerging virus threats

But reading the book has a very important message and that is that we have to do much more research to be as prepared as possible for all threats from emerging viruses that are dangerous, such as the West Nile virus, or other viruses. such as Dengue, Ebola, Zika, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis virus, etc.

To which we should add possible new variants of the influenza virus or coronaviruses as the most likely to cause new pandemics. The list is much longer but here I have wanted to name one by one a whole series of viruses that at any moment can become much more dangerous than they already are because they can undergo a series of mutations that make them more lethal.

The best defense we can have against these potential threats is to greatly increase research in general and in virology in particular, if we want to be better prepared for the threats described in this book.

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