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Hungarian Innovation May Help Prevent Next Pandemic

Fanni Kaszás 2020.03.27.

A Hungarian research group has developed a new protocol that would not only help to predict, but even help prevent crises such as the current coronavirus pandemic, or at least give enough time to develop an appropriate defense strategy.

The problem of emerging diseases is basically an ecological phenomenon, but from a practical point of view it is now a threat to national security for all countries, especially for the inhabitants of technologically advanced cities. Urbanization, globalization, and climate change all have positive impacts on the survival and spread of pathogens and help them to relocate to new locations and organisms, thus stimulating the emergence of epidemics in humans, domestic animals, and crops.

However, the spread of these pathogens can be stopped by ecological methods, such as the ecological-based protection strategy, DAMA, which can be first tested in Hungary. The concept was developed by an international team of experts and sent to the chairman of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network last December.

Most of the elements of the protocol are not new. The acronym refers to four things: Documentation, Assessment, Monitoring, and a real novelty, Action. Researchers are tracking urban epidemiological focal points, invasive species emerging in the domestic fauna as a result of climate change, and the diseases they have introduced.

The goal of the Hungarian researchers is to implement an evolutionary-ecological national program that successfully implements the DAMA protocol, which can later expand into an international research network. In this way, the emergence of certain pathogens and a potential pandemic can be predicted and even prevented.

Hungary may prove to be a good basis for testing the protocol, because the so-called “citizen science,“ citizen participation and cooperation is essential. Here, the use of the internet and mobile phones is widespread, there is a common national language, and the general level of education is relatively high, i.e. people can read and write. In practice, if someone detects a strange insect or a plant, they can send it to a center via an app where the image can be verified by researchers and experts.

Of course, to implement the protocol a great amount of money will be needed. However, according to researcher Gábor Földvári, far less is needed for it than what is needed to deal with an outbreak.

Although the DAMA protocol is no longer able to stop or prevent the current coronavirus pandemic, it is possible to prevent the next, or at least prepare for it so as not to hit us so unexpectedly and allow for enough time to develop an appropriate defense strategy. Scientists claim that the coronavirus may even hit the world again, and other diseases will continue to occur in the future. The principle of the researchers is: “Let’s find them before they find us.”

featured photo: Márton Mónus/MTI