The scholar Jesús López Romalde, professor of Microbiology at the University of Santiago (USC), considers that this pandemic has left a clear message: Health is “global” and it would be appalling if the balance between human, animal and environmental disappeared , since the consequences of this could be “dramatic”.
“We are facing a major crisis, but we are also faced with the opportunity to do things better in the future,” he says in an interview with Efe, in which he says that “we did not expect that a tiny infectious agent could alter it. in this way our life. ”
He believes that a “calm” investigation will help to solve many unknowns, since there have been many inquiries that have made a lot of this pathogen known in record time but that have been carried out “by force” and, at least at his discretion, ” with a lot of political, social and media pressure. “
– Question: You have always been clear about the zoonotic origin of the virus.
– Answer: I have discarded from the beginning those theories, conspiracy, that the virus was a laboratory product, because all the scientific evidence available so far points to a zoonotic origin.
– Q: Based on its transmissibility between human beings, you cannot rule out that SARS-CoV-2 has been with us for a while. Right?
– A: Yes. And that, by mutation or recombination, some strain has increased its virulence in recent months and caused the pandemic. There are still unknowns that time and a more calm investigation will help to solve. This virus has been investigated at high speed since its appearance, with a lot of social, political and media pressure. This has made more of this virus known in a few months than of other old acquaintances in many years.
On the other hand, not too rigorous studies abound that have been made public, skipping the usual peer review mechanisms for any scientific publication and probably many will not pass these quality filters, so they will not be part of the scientific corpus on SARS-CoV-2.
– Q: Is Spain better prepared in the sense of analytical methods to quickly detect new possible contagions and stop the spread?
– A: We have been, worth the redundancy, exposed to an informative overexposure that can generate anxiety and even fear in a large part of the population. Not to mention the amount of hoaxes that have circulated in the media and social networks. The good news is that in the event of spikes in the disease, we have much more knowledge than in December 2019.
Yes, reliable analytical methods have been developed, both for direct detection of virus nucleic acid (RT-PCR), as well as serological methods, as well as for detection of antigens or antibodies such as ELISA and also rapid tests, although the latter with less reliability. Possible treatments have also been evaluated, some with promising results, and progress is being made in the development of vaccines.
– Q: Is reinforcing primary care as much as possible the key to controlling possible outbreaks?
– A: Indeed. The role of primary care in the coming months will be essential in detecting new cases, by epidemiologically monitoring those affected and their contacts, and establishing measures such as quarantine or confinement, if necessary, of certain population groups. . All this will contribute to the re-sprouts, if they occur, be localized and do not present a large magnitude.
Therefore, strengthening primary care structures and personnel, or the availability of epidemiological trackers, are measures that should be taken into account at the level of health managers and authorities.
– Q: That first barrier, which constitutes primary care, has to work because, if not, what would be the scenario?
– A: If the first barrier that constitutes primary care works, it will make the health system not collapse as it did in the first wave, so that the reaction capacity will be much better and the performance more efficient for control. of the illness. Effective treatments or vaccines will still take some time to arrive and, while that does not happen, we as individuals and society are the vaccine.
– Q: Has this pandemic been a before and after?
– A: I think so. We did not expect that a tiny infectious agent could alter our life, much less our economy, in this way. Although there had been antecedents like the 1918 flu pandemic, and other more recent epidemics. Despite the fact that some experts have already warned that the loss of biodiversity or the invasion of natural spaces increasingly facilitates the transmission and spread of pathogens from animal species and their possible jump to humans.
– Q: Despite all this evidence, society in general felt safe …
– A: And in a few months we have passed into insecurity and fear of not being able to return to normality, of not knowing what the new normality will be like now. I think the most important lesson is that maintaining a strong healthcare system is a priority in any modern society, as well as establishing and reinforcing a scientific fabric that can give adequate responses to possible threats to public health.
We must become aware that health is global, of the “One-health” concept, which integrates human health, animal health and environmental health and that if the balance between them disappears, that can have dramatic consequences. We are facing a major crisis, but we are also faced with the opportunity to do better in the future.