Support Research That Could Prevent Deadly Disease Outbreaks

Target: Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health

Goal: Better invest in beneficial testing technique and restrict funding for divisive and possibly dangerous form of research.

The strong correlation between high COVID-19 vaccination rates and low infection rates validates the incredible role science can play in blunting the deadly effect of infectious diseases. These invaluable tools must be utilized in the safest and most efficient way, however. Two research techniques have fallen under renewed scrutiny and review in the midst of the pandemic. While stronger investment in one of these methods could prove very beneficial, the other highly controversial method may merit serious restrictions.

The less divisive pan-species testing method involves widespread development of tests that could detect COVID-19, other coronaviruses, or other viruses of concern in a broad spectrum of animals. A recent research study revealed that a version of canine coronavirus from 2018 was found in school children’s samples from that time. Until the research three years later, the exact disease the children had experienced was unknown. Discovering these cases early becomes even more important with viruses that have a high probability of jumping from animals to humans…and potentially back and forth until new and worrying mutations arise. If more robust virus testing was conducted on animals, some of history’s most destructive disease outbreaks may have been prevented.

On the other hand, gain-of-function research restrictions have received increased attention in the wake of theories that COVID-19 may have inadvertently originated from such studies. In this potentially dangerous technique, scientists alter a virus or other disease-causing organism in order to enhance its contagiousness, its strength, or its ability to infect humans. The reasoning behind this research is that it better prepares humanity for potential medicines and responses in the event a disease does naturally become more potent. The risk, however, lies in a lab accident or some other circumstance releasing this more dangerous contagion into the public sphere. Even many scientists have raised ethical concerns about this type of research. While funding for gain-of-function research was halted in 2014, the ban was lifted in 2017. An expert panel is currently reviewing the issue.

Sign the petition below to urge the National Institutes of Health to consider reinstating this ban while investing more fully in pan-species testing to benefit both humans and animals impacted by illness.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Dr. Collins,

Dozens of scientists and broad public concerns put a halt to gain-of-function research funding in 2014, and this step took place before a worldwide pandemic. As the National Institutes of Health’s rules regarding funding stand now, many funded researches are free of the supposedly more rigorous oversight processes that these studies should undergo.  With the number of laboratory accidents cited in this initial ban and with the ongoing uncertainty about the origins of COVID-19, the time for reinstating a funding ban may be now.

In contrast, a decidedly less dangerous and potentially more beneficial form of research remains understudied and underfunded: pan-species testing. These measures enhance the ability of COVID-19 and similar laboratory tests to detect viruses in humans and a wide range of animals. Epidemiologists have warned for years that unknown viruses and even existing known viruses can circulate in animals undetected, mutating and growing in power until they make the jump to humans. Stopping this destructive process in its tracks is crucial, and pan-species testing is a critical tool for true public health emergency preparation.

Please take these factors into strong consideration when determining what type of scientific research is worthy of investment and approval.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Chokniti Khongchum


8 Comments

  1. Jenna Miles says:

    Non animal methods only!

  2. Lisa Finnigan says:

    Cats and dogs don’t give covid to people, it’s the other way around!

  3. Lisa Allis says:

    I sign these petitions to protect animals. These experiments will bring unnecessary harm, suffering, and death to innocent animals. Stop pointing fingers at animals and find out where this covid came from.

  4. It is necessary to end animal tests, not just for animal welfare but also for human welfare. We need more scientific tests.

  5. I agree with the other comments. The virus testing in and on animals just means that there will be more abused lab animals. This is something that we need to avoid. Find another way. I also believe that gain of function research should be halted due to the dangers involved, such as the lab leak of the Covid 19 virus. Ask yourself, are these experiments supposed to protect us from possible new and deadlier virus strains, or spread them amongst us?

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