Virus-hunting seems a little risky.

Plus: The best thing you can do to help you live a long life.

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― Nishan Panwar

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

Monday. The Sunday Scaries might have been just a little scarier for some people last night. Streaming giant, Netflix, had a brief outage during a live stream of the dating reality show, “Love is Blind.” Imagine trying to distract yourself from the impending doom of Monday with a bit of trash TV, only to have the stream go down — scary stuff. Do you know what else is scary? Scientists were messing out with dangerous viruses in bat caves. Let’s dive in.

Risky Business 

Messing around with dangerous pathogens in a lab is risky business. Is the lab leak theory still a hot-button issue? Probably, so let’s just leave it at this — human error is real. Humans make mistakes all the time. Like how much chips and salsa we eat before the entree at Mexican restaurants. It’s always a mistake, yet we always do it. Therefore, humans messing around with dangerous pathogens is inherently a risky business. Yet, we still do it. 

The U.S. government has been funding virus-hunting programs in Thailand to identify unknown viruses that could potentially pose a threat to humans. Scientists from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand have made repeated trips to remote caves and forests inhabited by millions of bats, including species that carry diseases deadly to humans, to collect saliva, blood, and excrement. The research was funded by the U.S. government, but concerns arose about the safety of the scientists when some of them were bitten by bats, and another worker stuck herself with a needle while trying to extract blood from an animal.

You see, we all make mistakes. 

As documented in this detailed piece of journalism by the Washington Post, The Thai team's leader, Thiravat Hemachudha, ultimately decided to stop the research, citing the risks to his researchers' lives and the lack of benefits to Thailand, despite the millions of dollars of funding from the U.S. government. Smart move. 

The program aimed to identify pathogens "most likely to become pandemic" and prevent such events, but after more than a decade of work, researchers had nothing to show for it. Ah, yes — poking around in bat caves to find pathogens most likely to cause a pandemic. That idea has never backfired.

The U.S. government has funded two virus-hunting programs in Thailand to identify viruses circulating primarily among animals. The researchers would catch bats and collect their bodily fluids for analysis to predict which microbes might threaten humans. However, Thai researchers expressed concern about the risk of accidental infection in the field and during the transportation of the vials of bat material back to their campus lab in Bangkok, ultimately leading to the program’s shutdown. 

Scientists, biosecurity experts, and policymakers have acknowledged that this type of research is dangerous and have called for stricter regulations and monitoring moving forward.  While these specific programs aimed to identify viruses that could threaten humans and prevent such events, they ultimately proved too risky for Thailand.

The key takeaway? We aren’t biosecurity experts here at the Daily Tonic, but we do have some common sense. This stuff is risky business, and I think we speak for everyone when we say we’d like to avoid another pandemic for at least the next few decades.

The virus hunting programs in Thailand funded by the U.S. government were aimed to predict which microbes might threaten humans and prevent such events. That’s a good thing, but at what risk? If we are going to be doing this type of pathogen research, we need to approach it with extreme caution.

Or maybe we just avoid it altogether — just a thought. 

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Better Than Quitting Smoking 

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Imagine that. We all know smoking is terrible for your health. But did you know that exercise and strength training could be so powerful?

Tonic Shots

  • More mRNA vaccines are coming. A midstage trial has shown that a combination of an mRNA-powered cancer vaccine from Merck and Moderna with Keytruda kept more melanoma patients from relapsing, potentially presenting a significant development for the use of cancer vaccines to keep patients in remission. Read more! 

  • Looking to slow down the aging process? Try these delicious and nutritious anti-aging recipes!

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