COVID-19 pandemic and one health approach: learning from humanity’s past mistakes

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Liber Ramírez Bustamante, a med student currently one year away from graduating at the National School of Medicine and Homeopathy in Mexico City. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In November 9, 2015, Menachery et al published ‘‘A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence’’ on Nature, publication that has been used to suggest that the COVID-19 Pandemic started as a bat-to-human zoonosis. Actually, in March 30, 2020, the authors didn’t hesitate in noting that they were aware of their article being used to put forward the idea of SARS-CoV-2 being a product of human invention through genetical modification, and that there is no actual evidence that supports that theory; instead, they stand firm on the information they’ve gathered through their expertise – scientists believe that an animal is most likely the source of the coronavirus.

Many theories of SARS-CoV-2 origination have appeared as the governments keep asking questions and the scientific community makes new suggestions, and today, it’s important to reflect on the invasion and predation of natural spaces and how it’s related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Today, even with a major worldwide effort on vaccination, treatment engineering and prevention research, we don’t have the absolute truth about COVID-19, but even if we don’t have enough evidence to completely submit a bat-to-human zoonosis, that idea doesn’t sound too far-fetched, instead, we do have history of Denmark culling up to 17 million mink after a mutated version of the new coronavirus transmissible to humans was found on mink farms in November 2020, and now we do have suggestions of many mammals being potential reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2, being capable of spread the virus to humans without suffering symptoms: we talk about ferrets, pigs, mink, bats, and even cats, and the possibility of that list going on and on in the next months seems significant.

This leaves us with even more questions and doubts about the course of this pandemic, but something’s certain at the end: vaccination should be a priority for our governments, in order to reach the goal of worldwide population being immunized against the new coronavirus, and as the risk of mammals as potential reservoirs, and new evidence on dogs, gorillas, pumas and leopards definitely seems to remind us that if the world suffers the surge of a mutation that affects both humans and animals, may we be in the beginning of a gigantic environmental catastrophe, in which not only our healthcare systems and economics collapse, but many important species would start to be affected and therefore the whole equilibrium of our ecosystems in the planet would fall down and represent the worsening of something that may have started with the invasion of a natural habitat, developed as one of the deadliest pandemics human race has ever experienced, and ended as a gigantic environmental catastrophe.

Finally, as if we didn’t have already enough reasons to care for the environment, one of the biggest lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic is avoiding the invasion of natural spaces which may be ecologically equilibrated on their own, but may host potentially dangerous and extremely virulent germs and virus.

About the author

Liber Ramírez Bustamante is a med student currently one year away from graduating at the National School of Medicine and Homeopathy in Mexico City. He is an active member of the Medical Students Polytechnic Association (AMEP), an IFMSA (AMMEF) organization. Liber is compromised with several Advocacy Topics, such as Mental Health, Family Violence, Child Abuse, Climate Change and Racial Equity, and hopes to become an integrative and multidisciplinary specialist in the future who can raise his voice as a Healthcare Professional in order to make a positive impact in his community and in whoever listens his words.

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