The CSIRO has delivered a comprehensive report on how we should prepare for future pandemics.

The report identifies six key science and technology areas such as faster development of vaccines and onshore vaccine manufacturing to ensure supply, new antivirals and ways of using the medicines we already have, better ways of diagnosing cases early, genome analysis, and data sharing.

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Authorities have been told to prepare against the virus families that could cause the next pandemic. Picture: Damian Shaw/NCA NewsWire
Authorities have been told to prepare against the virus families that could cause the next pandemic. Picture: Damian Shaw/NCA NewsWire

It also recommends we learn more about viruses and their hosts across the five most concerning virus families. These causes of disease could fuel the next pandemic.

We asked leading experts about the diseases they can cause and why authorities should prepare well:

  1. Coronaviridae

This includes: Covid-19, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acquired respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The first human Coronaviruses (229E and OC43) were found in 1965 and 1967 respectively. They were low-grade pathogens causing only mild cold-like symptoms and gastroenteritis. Initial understanding of this family came from study of related strains that commonly infect livestock or laboratory mice that also caused non-fatal disease.

The HKU-1 strain in 1995 again did not demonstrate an ability to generate high levels of disease. As such, coronaviridae were not considered a major concern until severe acquired respiratory syndrome (SARS-1) first appeared in 2002 in China.

Coronaviridae have a very long RNA genome, coding up to 30 viral proteins. Only four or five genes make infectious virus particles, but many others support diseases from this family by modifying immune responses.

The viruses in this family mutate at a steady low rate, selecting changes in the outer spike to allow virus entry into new host cells.

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