The past four months have taught us how unprepared we were for a novel threat like COVID-19. ABI exists to collaborate with researchers, policymakers, and industry experts to ensure we never find ourselves this unprepared again.
Our Congressional Climate report is designed to give an overview of the current policy landscape. While we have begun to see discussion in Congress around developing more rapid responses, such as the recent work by Congressman Gosar of Arizona, there is much work yet to be done. We are calling for a fourprong model approach to health during pandemics going forward.
Natural resistance to infection through physical barriers and the innate immune response is the first line of defense for all people. These systems prevent infection by most disease-causing organisms when you are exposed to small amounts of contagion. Clinical study has demonstrated that the function of each individual’s innate infection resistance can be improved by following some simple principles.
2. Rapid ‘Preventive Firebreak’ Response:Protection for New Bio Threats & Conditions
There is a large gap between self-care and vaccination that novel threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can exploit to wreak havoc with lives and economies. A safe, effective, and rapid means of responding to these outbreaks is by creating passive immunity firebreaks that can be developed and deployed quickly to intercept and suppress infectious disease threats. This type of intervention is already well established in nature in the form of breastfeeding. A mother transfers her immune system to her child through her milk to help protect the child during the time when the child does not yet have an effective immune system of their own. A mother transfers her immune system to her child through her milk to help protect the child during the time when the child does not yet have an effective immune system of their own. By ‘borrowing’ the ‘mother’s immune system, the child is able to avoid more infections than it would experience without the benefit of passive immunity. If this could be replicated by utilizing antibodies in a way that can be scaled, it could produce a rapid response to established or emerging infectious disease threats alike—hence providing large-scale, inexpensive protection within 2-3 months of a novel threat.
3. Rescue response: Treatments for New Bio Threats & Conditions
When someone becomes seriously ill, a curative treatment to improve the prognosis of the disease is important. Antibodies are the primary means of intervening in an active case of infection because they facilitate the reduction of virus levels and speed up the recovery. Other examples of rescue medication can also be found in the form of steroids or other small molecule formulations. All of these are important options for a patient that is already critically ill and requires a means of improving their prognosis. While the utility of improving the prognosis of a critically ill patient is undeniable, the direct and indirect costs of illness, as well as the cost of the rescue medication, are very high. Thus, making avoiding illness in the first place, a far more desirable path to retaining health.
4. Development of Vaccines Fostering Natural and Herd Immunity
The long-standing utility of vaccines in public health cannot be overstated. Although many vaccines are of varying effectiveness and can be difficult to produce, the benefits far outweigh the costs. By reducing the number, length, and severity of cases an infectious disease creates, it reduces the impact on the overall community significantly. Long-term use of vaccines in conjunction with passive immunity firebreak treatments offers the most comprehensive protection for both individuals and communities. There are significant challenges still ahead. While we as a civilization have been fortunate to avoid a serious pandemic for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that this is a luxury we can no longer afford. Going forward, we have to accept that the next pandemic is inevitable, just as this one was – it is only a question of when it is going to occur and how severe it is going to be. The sacrifices made during this pandemic make it our duty to create a system that will be able to respond effectively in the future and protect what we have been unable to protect today.
Ravi Starzl PhD
American BioDefense Institute