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How does “Vector” resist to biological threats?

The reason for our meeting with the deputy director general of the Federal Budget Institute of Science the State Scientific Center of Virology and Biotechnology “Vector” on scientific work, Doctor of Biology Alexander Petrovitch Agafonov became the documentary film “Infection” shown on the TVC channel. His authors tried to understand why the American biological laboratories are on perimeter of the Russian borders, what is done there and how it can be reflected us?

Not casually the founders of the movie addressed for comments on our “Vector”: here the best domestic experts work. And we began conversation with Alexander Petrovitch from the very beginning. Namely:

- Emergence of epidemic is always an event which causes alarm not only in certain people, but even in the whole countries. From where do new virus infections undertake?


- According to the modern representations about 3000 types of viruses are known. And the forecast of experts is as follows: we didn't open also a hundredth part of all viruses on a planet yet. That is, it is theoretically possible to expect that now there are about 300 000 viruses on Earth. The part of them we simply don't notice – they can infect plants, monkeys, birds, crocodiles, someone else, but not the person. And here the second group of viruses that can pass to the person. Here and there are new infections about which never heard earlier …

For example, the virus exists at any group of animals and or at contact with such animal, or in attempt to cultivate it, to take in a zoo, or it is simple at expansion of the environment of living of the person there is a contact with an animal or traces of his activity. Also there is a situation when the virus finds the new owner who suits it on all necessary parameters for distribution. Exactly so it happened in 2003 with coronavirus SARS which is known as atypical pneumonia to the majority. It just passed to the person from animals and just the same situation now with another coronavirus MERS, it is same coronavirus as well as SARS and also was known nothing of it before. It was shown on Arabian Peninsula. It is assumed that it could pass to the person from a camel. Now it causes mortality approximately in 50% of cases of diseases. But how it arose? Where undertook? While nobody can answer these questions.

- There is an opinion that dangerous viruses can be created by an artificial way. Is it possible?

- There is such point of view. But, you know, it reminds me the theory of panspermia which claims that the life on Earth couldn't arise independently – it was introduced from space. Always there are some options, but I have such belief that at the present stage the virus doesn't have the need to wait creations of any artificial option. From one cage of a human body and they are 300 trillion!, the virus can give posterity in 100 million! Can you imagine what quantity of options exists?! On each 10 thousand viruses you always have one mutant so there is a lot of them – millions …

- How to learn that a new virus appeared? By what methods it can be determined?


- It is possible to define when the person will fall ill … Here only empirical methods work and no other. It is impossible to define a new virus while it didn't show itself! We can find it, but only on traces which it leaves. Respectively, any serious illness needs to be traced. We are obliged to trace all hard and lethal cases by the order of Rospotrebnadzor. May be the new virus was shown in any place? All of us investigate it by means of the corresponding methods and tools.

- Recently there were biological laboratories in the former federal republics. As a rule, they are located near our borders – recently it was told about it in the television movie “Infection”. Tell me, what, actually, such laboratory represents?

- The laboratory is a complex of rooms which allows to carry out the work with viruses of various degree of danger. There are four degrees of danger. The first is the highest. These are viruses which cause high degree of a lethality – to 90%. Now there are no remedies against them. For example, it is the Marburg and Ebola virus which cause hemorrhagic fevers. Preparations against them just start passing clinical tests. Viruses of the second group of pathogenicity are distinguished also by high mortality. The lethality reaches 30%, but here we already have any prophylactics and treatments. The third and fourth groups already less pathogens for the person (here is, for example, measles and flu). They are widespread, but don't cause serious consequences from the point of view of lethality.

- And all these four categories can be investigated in the laboratory?

- Technical equipment of laboratory is created. And what is the most important? The most important is that everyone who lives around wouldn’t feel that there is the work with viruses here. And that they can represent though any threat. Respectively, it is impossible to let somebody inside. On the one hand. Also it is impossible to allow that the virus came to light – on the other hand. If you remember, there were such hearings about 20 years ago that supposedly tomatoes became covered by a mold. And cucumbers turned yellow because there was a leak on “Vector”… Such hearings periodically appear though they have no communication with real life. Once again I will repeat: the most important principle of our work is that the people shouldn't suffer by no means!

- Why there are not so many such centers and laboratories?

- Well, this is expensive pleasure. The creation of such complex and its equipment according to modern requirements costs very big money. They need to be enclosed at first in creation of the laboratory, and then the laboratory has to receive constantly them to support structure and to provide the solution of tasks for what, as a matter of fact, all was constructed.

- The USA create similar biological laboratories near the borders of the Russian Federation – in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan; at once three laboratories appeared in Ukraine. Why to build them in other countries?

- I think that the geographical principle predominates here – to be closer to that place where there are viruses interesting you. In general, there is a monitoring system — tracking all viruses constituting danger. Respectively, the wider network, the more laboratories, the more chances you have to find that dangerous virus, to study the changes of borders of its distribution and to track change of its properties. In this sense, the emergence of new laboratories is the positive phenomenon. I want to note that we work in system of World Health Organization which just coordinates reaction of the world community to emergence of viruses. If not the work coordination within WHO, each country would try to cope with a problem alone. You know, scientists have a good tradition – they always share the knowledge with colleagues. And if any case to which it is necessary to pay attention is found, we, for example, right report in Rospotrebnadzor and in WHO, to the colleagues in neighboring countries: be attentive! This danger can appear at you!

- Is it important who exactly conducts the researches: civil experts or military?

- The experts are prepared equally, but problems which they solve, of course, can differ. As for civil experts, they carry out researches about which I’ve already spoke earlier. And what problems are solved by military, we don't know. In this respect we have no information.

- The fact of finding of biological laboratories of other state at borders of Russia bears potential danger in itself?

- I am not confident in it. You know, in the modern world, in general, it is not important where is the laboratory exactly. It is important what is done there and how it will be used then! And there is no difference whether this laboratory is in Australia, or in Europe, or somewhere in the middle of Asia. Present a situation. Invite the person in a meeting room; he breathed there not for long and everything is ready: the virus can go where you want that it got. That is, a problem not in the biological laboratory location – a problem is that everything became under WHO control. It is a guarantee of that everything will go for the benefit. I will remind that there is a convention on prohibition of the chemical and bacteriological weapon, accepted in 1972. It limits certain types of works.

- Experts of “Vector” prepare many years for the achievement of high professional level, including the safety issues. Can we be sure, that due level of safety is supported on similar biological laboratories?


- At least, five years are necessary on preparation of the highly qualified specialist, ready to solve complex problems. Firstly, the expert who comes to work to us, has to have the good basic education connected with biological science. Then he will take four-months courses where will receive necessary practical skills for work with viruses. Further this expert will work together with more skilled researcher not less than three years, yet won't get access to independent work. Thus needless to say that the person didn't allow emergencies, is psychologically steady, is accurate with alcohol, and so on. There is a lot of requirements and all of them are acquitted.

- That is, there is the whole system.

- Yes, it is the system, and it is built for years, checked by time. Only the person who is prepared by this system, can work with dangerous viruses. It is so arranged on “Vector” and we don't know how is in laboratories about which you speak. But, I think that approaches are identical. In any case, on literature we know that Americans make rigid demands to the experts allowed to work with dangerous viruses too.

- In Russia many centers are engaged in viruses?

- We have some serious scientific centers. For example, Virology Institute of D.I.Ivanovsky in Moscow or Flu Scientific Research Institute in St. Petersburg. Without false modesty, however, I will notice that among all centers dealing with viruses, our “Vector” is the most self-sufficient. In our Center it is possible to be engaged in research of any viruses, with the use of any laboratory animals; on “Vector” there is a big collection of viruses, and also one of large collections of specimen of cages. It can be engaged in all types of virology researches and this is the big advantage. We have all necessary areas, materials, engineering system, staff of researchers. We can pass a way from idea to its practical embodiment. Always there was a problem to join science with production. And on “Vector” such cooperation was provided initially. “Vector” also appeared, having the scientific and production association status. The example of a fast embodiment of idea is the creation the preparation Reaferon known today over all country. Recently in the history of our country there was a stage when the science was necessary to nobody, production wasn't necessary. Then – neither that, nor other. And now all is necessary! And we are ready to work in this direction. One more example: immune-enzyme test systems which give the chance to diagnose an illness quickly. Today Russia practically doesn't buy them because, including, development of “Vector” laid down in a basis of diagnosticums, made in Russia, and now demand for them is completely satisfied. And I will notice, it is not small …

- Much is written about the African plague of pigs. What is it? Is it dangerous to the person?

- All know that we are able to work quickly and qualitatively. There are offers that we worked with the African plague of pigs. Together with specialists of the veterinary centers it is possible to solve this problem too. At once I will tell that it is absolutely not dangerous to the person, but the lethality at pigs reaches 100%. When this virus is found at though one pig all animals (and also all pigs in a radius of 20 km) are destroyed and burned in the farm.

Feeding troughs, partitions, stock and so on are burned, differently simply it is impossible. Yes, by the way, after all burned, rooms also are processed by chlorine without fail. How to fight against it? Let's begin with that there are viruses which live only at the person. For example, it is measles. It is possible to make medicine and after general vaccination to forget about an illness. Exactly so left with smallpox – it disappeared absolutely. But there are infections which live, for example, in rats …

- You can’t vaccinate all of them obviously!

- There are two ways: or to destroy all rats, or to vaccinate them. Both that, and another, is equally impossible. At this stage we can fight only. The most effective remedy of fight is a vaccine. Well, and it is impossible to forget about quarantine.

- It turns out that “Vector” is on a first line figuratively speaking


- There are two main infectious agents who cause the diseases: either viruses, or bacteria. With the advent of antibiotics it is possible to tell that the situation considerably became simpler with bacteria. At least to a condition when all is under control. And there is no universal remedy of fight with viruses. It is necessary to struggle anew each time with each concrete virus. Most likely, such universal remedy won't be found though we, of course, will create a certain set. Meanwhile the highly specialized preparations are used. For example, against the flu. And they work very well. But there are many work directions, so fight against dangerous viruses requires the time, efforts are necessary, expenses are necessary. It is impossible to predict the result in advance. Look: a vaccine was created quickly enough against tick-borne encephalitis and measles, and it is created 30 years against HIV… The virus has ability to change very quickly; while it quicker us. After all there can be one million new options of a virus from one person. And it is necessary to fight with them – it is an essential task. And, it is possible to tell that this is the requirement of national security of our country.

- Is an exchange of information with other countries?


- Surely, but only through WHO system. For example, recently we received two strains of viruses of flu (H7N9 subtype) and coronavirus MERS: without having the virus, it is very difficult to make medicine. And WHO task – to provide such centers as “Vector” with samples of viruses against which it is necessary to fight.

- Russia can keep full-scale programs and what is it possible to tell about the independent states – the former federal republics?


- Everything is defined by what purpose puts the state. It is difficult to convince the Minister of Health of rather poor country that he has to allocate million dollars for laboratory when children starve and civil war goes … The question which we are often asked is connected with it also: and is it necessary to do all vaccines by ourselves? Perhaps, it is better to buy abroad? Probably, it is possible to buy, but the task set for the Russian developers to make all vaccines for a national calendar of inoculations seems to me very correct in fact. National security is our priority. And it is absolutely unambiguous that such country as Russia has to have the powerful centers of virology such as “Vector”.

From edition: judging by that the African plague mortality of pigs reaches 100%, and many regions of Russia and Ukraine became the regions of its distribution, it is possible to assume that it is a question of the purposeful biological diversion directed against meat-processing production in of these countries. It is quite possible that someone tries to eliminate the competitors in such way. So, hello to the WTO and EU together...

Viewed : 1620   Commented: 2

Author: Vladimir Kuzmenkin

Publication date : 29 October 2013 01:00

Source: The world and we

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