Transcript: The Viral Menace | Mar 18, 2021

Logo: TVF International.

A caption reads "Some images in this programme may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."

Clips from different news shows roll.

The host says TWO MAJOR CITIES IN CHINA ARE
ON LOCKDOWN TONIGHT.

Another host says A NEW TYPE OF CORONAVIRUS...

Another host says THE SPREAD OF COVID-19...

The narrator says A PANDEMIC ERUPTS
AND CAUSES HAVOC WORLDWIDE.
THE SPOTLIGHT IS NOW BACK ON
INFECTIOUS DISEASES THAT
THREATEN HUMANITY.
THIS SERIES WILL FOLLOW TOP
SCIENTISTS HUNTING VIRUSES,
BACTERIA, AND MOSQUITO-BORNE
DISEASES.
THEY'RE LOOKING FOR THE NEXT
KILLER OUTBREAK BEFORE TIME
RUNS OUT.

The opening scene rolls.

Fast clips show images of cell reproduction under a microscope, mosquitoes, bats, rats, a crowded street with mask-wearing passers-by, and scientists in hazmat suits analysing blood samples in the lab.

The name of the show reads "Disease Hunter."

A caption reads "Sai Yok National Park, Thailand. Episode 1: The Viral Menace"
The narrator says WESTERN THAILAND, RIGHT ON THE
BORDER WITH MYANMAR.
A DISEASE HUNTER IS DOING
CRUCIAL NEW RESEARCH.
SUPAPORN WACHARAPLUESADEE HAS
SPENT 20 YEARS STUDYING THE
WORLD'S ONLY FLYING MAMMAL,
THE BAT.

Supaporn is in her thirties, with chin length straight brown hair and wears glasses, black trousers, a gray T-shirt and a black cap hat.

She says "I found that the bats interesting. There are so many challenges. There are research questions that need to be answered. I want to discover them and find the answers."

The narrator says ECOLOGIST PRATEEP DUENGKAE
WILL CATCH THE BATS SUPAPORN
WANTS TO STUDY.

Prateep is in his forties, with short brown hair and wears light brown trouser, a red T-shirt, a gray cap hat and a head lamp.

(CHATTERING)

The narrator says AS SUPAPORN'S TEAM SETS UP A
MOBILE LAB, PRATEEP'S TEAM GOES
TO SURVEY LOCAL BAT CAVES.
IT'S AN URGENT TRIP, AND IT'S
NOT JUST ANY BAT THEY'RE AFTER.
THEY WANT TO FIND THE HORSESHOE
BAT, LINKED TO AN ONGOING
GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

The capion changes to "Doctor Supaporn Wacharapluesadee. Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre."

The search for coronavirus in horseshoe bats in Thailand is very important because it's reported that China has found the origins of COVID-19 in horseshoe bats and we also have horseshoe bats in Thailand. If we find the same virus, what level of risk are we at? How can we prevent the transmission from bats to host animals or to humans? Can we prevent an outbreak from happening if we deal with bats from the start?"

The narrator says MARKS ON THE CAVE WALLS
INDICATE HUNDREDS, PERHAPS
THOUSANDS OF BATS, BUT THE TEAM
DOESN'T INITIALLY FIND ANY
HORSESHOE BATS.

The caption changes to "Doctor Prateep Duengkae. Kasetsart University."

He says "There is a season when bats often migrate from cave to cave, and there are many caves in this area. So maybe they might move to another cave."

The narrator says THEY'LL RELY ON A NET COVERING
THE CAVE ENTRANCE,
WHICH THE BATS WILL HIT WHEN
THEY FLY OUT TO FEED ON
INSECTS.
ALL THEY CAN DO NOW IS WAIT TIL
DARK AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.
THEIR PATIENCE PAYS OFF.
THE SMALL BAT WITH THE BIG
REPUTATION FINALLY MAKES AN
APPEARANCE.
(SQUEAKING)

The narrator says THE HORSESHOE IS ONE OF 150 BAT
SPECIES IN THAILAND.
THE TEAM TRY TO CATCH AS MANY
BATS AS THEY CAN AS THE CLOCK
TICKS.
BACK AT THE MAKESHIFT LAB,
SUPAPORN HAS HEARD THAT HER
PRECIOUS AND POTENTIALLY
DANGEROUS CARGO IS ON THE WAY.
(CHATTERING)

Supaporn says "Most of the emerging infectious diseases come from wild animals and many of them have bats as a reservoir. For example, Ebola, SARS, MERS and COVID-19."

Prateep says "Altogether 50 bats."

Supaporn says "50 bats."

They high-five.

The narrator says THE BATS ARE FIRST MEASURED.
AN ORAL SWAB CAPTURES SALIVA.
AN ANAL SWAB RETRIEVES FAECES.
THEN BLOOD IS EXTRACTED.
AND A TISSUE SAMPLE WILL HELP
CONFIRM THE SPECIES VIA DNA.
THE PROCESS GOES ON LATE INTO
THE NIGHT AS MORE BATS ARRIVE.
THEY INCLUDE SPECIES OTHER THAN
HORSESHOE BATS, BUT THEY'RE
TESTED AS WELL.
THE BATS ARE RELEASED AND WILL
FIND THEIR WAY HOME.
IT'S A LOT OF ACTIVITY AND
ATTENTION FOR SOMEONE WHO
DIDN'T ORIGINALLY WANT IT.

Supaporn says "As a kid I didn't have many friends. I liked being alone so I thought being a scientist would suit me best. I'd get to work alone in the laboratory, testing samples and doing experiments. I wouldn't have to socialise much. But after I became a scientist, I think I misunderstood the role of a scientist. It turned out that apart from the work in the laboratory, I also have to go meet with many people, for example in seminars to explain my work. I have to make people understand about science."

The caption changes to "Bangkok."

The narrator says IN BANGKOK, IT'S THE NEXT
STAGE OF WORK FOR SUPAPORN'S
LAB TEAM.
THEY'VE GOT SAMPLES FROM 100
BATS.
THEY'RE USING A RANGE OF TOOLS
TO ANALYSE THE SAMPLES,
INCLUDING GENETIC SEQUENCING.
IN EARLY 2020, SUPAPORN WAS THE
FIRST SCIENTIST OUTSIDE CHINA
TO CONFIRM A COVID-19 CASE,
JUST A DAY AFTER THE VIRUS'
GENETIC SEQUENCE WAS RELEASED.
HER UNIT IS RACING TO DEVELOP A
VACCINE LIKE SO MANY OTHERS.
THE PANDEMIC HAS UPENDED HER
USUAL RESEARCH, AND HAS MEANT
FOUR HOURS SLEEP A NIGHT FOR
MONTHS ON END.

Supaporn says "I have to thank my family, my mum and dad, for always supporting and encouraging me to do something good for the public."

The narrator says THE SAMPLING AND TESTING
WILL CONTINUE FOR A FEW MONTHS
TO DETECT ANY COVID-19
CONNECTION IN THAI BATS.
FOR NOW, SUPAPORN IS NOT READY
TO REVEAL ANY RESULTS.

The caption changes to "Singapore."

The narrator says AT AN ISOLATED ANIMAL
RESEARCH CENTRE IN SINGAPORE,
DR. WANG LINFA IS ALSO STUDYING
BATS UP CLOSE, BUT WITH A
TWIST.
THESE ARE CAVE NECTAR BATS AND
THEY'RE BEING BRED HERE, NOT
STUDIED IN THE WILD.
THIS COLONY IS ONE OF THE FEW
OF ITS KIND ANYWHERE.
(SQUEAKING)
IT'S BACKED BY THE SINGAPORE
GOVERNMENT AND DUKE-NUS MEDICAL
SCHOOL.

Wang is in his fifties, with short brown hair and wears protective gear.

He says "So I think without bragging, it makes us one of the world leaders in bat research."

The narrator says EVERY FEW MONTHS THE BATS ARE
GIVEN A HEALTH CHECK,
INCLUDING FOR VIRUSES.

The caption changes to "Doctor Wang Linfa. Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, Duke-Nus Medical School."

In terms of the number of coronaviruses that bats carry, nobody knows. I think that currently we have at least 1,000 different coronaviruses already discovered and people think what we discovered is 1 percent of what's really in nature. So there's many, many more.
In the lab, Wang says "These nectar bats, they can really lick with a very long tongue and they lick their head and their body. And they are also very social animals. So they can have urine contamination. So from the head we can sample and then these samples go back to the lab and we can test if they carry any virus."

The narrator says BUT LINFA'S TEAM IS NO LONGER
LOOKING FOR NEW VIRUSES.
THEY'RE INTERESTED IN THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VIRUSES
AND THEIR HOSTS.
THEY'RE UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY
OF WHY BATS CARRY SO MANY
VIRUSES WITHOUT BEING AFFECTED
BY THEM, AND THE LESSONS THAT
COULD BE APPLIED TO HUMAN
HEALTH.
VIRUSES CAN INFECT ALL FORMS OF
LIFE.
THEY'RE MICROSCOPIC FRAGMENTS
OF GENETIC INFORMATION, WRAPPED
IN PROTEIN, AND CAN'T MULTIPLY
WITHOUT A HOST.
SO, THEY HIJACK CELLS AND, AS
THEY REPLICATE, DAMAGE THE
HOST'S DNA.
THE NORMAL IMMUNE RESPONSE IN
HUMANS AND OTHER MAMMALS IS
FOR SPECIAL SENSORS TO ACTIVATE
INFLAMMATION.
THIS SENDS IMMUNE CELLS TO KILL
THE VIRUS AND REPAIR THE
DAMAGE, BUT RESEARCH SHOWS THAT
DOESN'T HAPPEN IN BATS.
EVEN WITH A LOT OF VIRUS
PRESENT, THEIR INFLAMMATION
SENSORS BARELY ACTIVATE.

(SQUEAKING)

Wang says "And then they don't over-fight to try and clear the virus. But we humans and most animals, what we do is when a new virus come in, we fight. So we have a cliché, you know, what virologists say, very few viruses kill us. We kill ourselves. So we are less likely to co-exist with viruses than bats. But now we have actually found the bat can teach us lessons. You know they have a long live span, less prone to cancer and so on. Bats basically can offer a lot of lessons for us to learn and to translate it into medical research."

The narrator says BUT THERE ARE STILL THREATS
THAT MUST BE STUDIED.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT, IN TRYING
TO BEAT THE BAT'S IMMUNE
SYSTEM, SOME VIRUSES HAVE
ADAPTED TO SPREAD MORE QUICKLY
AMONG CELLS.
THAT SPELLS TROUBLE WHEN THOSE
VIRUSES ENCOUNTER A WEAKER
IMMUNE SYSTEM, LIKE THAT IN
HUMANS, BUT BATS ARE NOT THE
BAD GUY.
THEY MAKE UP A QUARTER OF ALL
MAMMAL SPECIES AND ARE
ESSENTIAL FOR POLLINATION AND
CONTROLLING DISEASE-CARRYING
INSECTS LIKE MOSQUITOES.

Wang says "Bats have been on earth much, much longer than humans. So we were the latecomers, they were the natives. So they have been around for at least 65 million years, you know."

The narrator says IT'S HUMANS THAT ARE CAUSING
THE SPILL OVER OF VIRUSES.

Wang says "If you go by the last twenty years and you look towards the next twenty years, unless we do major change in how we treat wildlife, how we do farming, how we travel, how we transport. If we don't change, it's almost certain right that there will be more outbreaks."

The narrator says IT'S THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN HUMANS AND NATURE WHICH
IS SEEING MANY VIRUSES
UNLEASHED.

At an animal market, a man with a hidden camera says "This is dangerous. This is the kind of thing that leads to bird flu. There's more animals for sale now, so they're re-opening. This is not good."

The narrator says AND THAT'S WHERE OTHER DISEASE
HUNTERS ARE FOCUSING THEIR
EFFORTS, TO PREVENT THE NEXT
PANDEMIC.

The caption changes to "Bangkok, Thailand."

The narrator says IN BANGKOK, THE LINK BETWEEN
WILDLIFE AND VIRUSES IS UNDER
THE MICROSCOPE.
SCIENTISTS THINK A BAT VIRUS
MAY HAVE JUMPED TO HUMANS AT A
MARKET IN WUHAN, CHINA VIA AN
INTERMEDIARY ANIMAL, CAUSING
THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK.
IS THERE A SIMILAR RISK AT THE
FAMOUS CHATUCHAK MARKET?
STEVE GALSTER HEADS THE
ANTI-TRAFFICKING GROUP
FREELAND, WHICH MANAGED TO GET
THE ANIMAL SECTION HERE SHUT
DOWN WHEN COVID-19 BROKE OUT.

Steve is in his forties, with short gray hair and wears khaki cargo trousers, a black T-shirt and a face mask.

He says FOR THE LAST ALMOST 30 YEARS,
MY COLLEAGUES AND I HAVE BEEN
WARNING ABOUT THE POTENTIAL
OUTBREAK OF ZOONOTIC DISEASES,
ZOONOTIC OUTBREAKS FROM THE
WILDLIFE TRADE, BECAUSE ALL
THESE ANIMALS CAN CARRY
INFECTIOUS DISEASES.

The narrator says THE SELLERS WON'T BE HAPPY
TO SEE STEVE.
AS HE GOES DEEPER INTO THE
MARKET, A HIDDEN CAMERA IS
NEEDED.

Steve walks around the market with the hidden camera and says "Lots of different species. Lots of different smells. Lots of different birds here, poultry... You've got some wild ducks, you've got some bred ones, all mixed together on top of each other. Pigeons, wild turkeys, even vultures in here. This is dangerous. This is the kind of thing that leads to bird flu. So here in cages right next to each other we've got adult raccoons next to a capybara, which is from South America. Those are from North America. Cages right next to each other. This is the biggest rodent in the world. And on top here, I think marmosets on top of the capybara. And on the left here we've got some kind of primate. Hello. But the market is a little busier than I expected. There's more animals for sale now, so they're re-opening. This is not good."

The caption changes to "Steve Galster. Freeland."

Steve says I THINK THESE WILDLIFE
MARKETS, NOT JUST WUHAN, BUT
ACROSS THE REGION REALLY ARE
TICKING TIME BOMBS, AND WHAT WE
JUST SAW HERE IS JUST A
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE LAB.
ANY ONE ANIMAL CAN TRANSMIT A
PATHOGEN TO ANOTHER.
SOMEBODY BUYS IT, HANDLES IT,
TAKES IT HOME AS A PET, OR EATS
IT, BOOM.
WE HAVE ANOTHER PANDEMIC.
WHAT DO WE GOT?

The narrator says BACK AT THE OFFICE, STEVE'S
SMALL TEAM IS USING SCIENCE TO
TRACK THE TRADE, AND DISEASE.

Steve says SO, WE'VE GOT ONE OF OUR
STAFF HERE EXTRACTING DATA FROM
A PHONE.
NORMALLY WE DO THIS WITH THE
POLICE.
THE POLICE ASK US TO DO THIS,
BECAUSE WE HELP THEM WITH THE
TECHNOLOGY.

The narrator says THE PHONE DATA IS ANALYSED
USING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
TO TRACK CONTACTS.
THE ALGORITHMS CAN HELP
IDENTIFY WHO'S HANDLING
FINANCES AND EVEN WHO'S THE
BOSS.

Steve says IT BASICALLY ALLOWS US TO SEE
WHO'S WHO IN THE ZOO.
THIS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
BASICALLY MAKES US DANGEROUS FOR
THE TRAFFICKERS.

The narrator says AND THE TEAM HAS DEVELOPED
AN APP THAT IDENTIFIES WHICH
ANIMALS CAN BE TRADED LEGALLY,
AND WHETHER THEY CARRY VIRUSES
DANGEROUS TO HUMANS.

Steve says SO, THE TRADE ON THE SURFACE
LOOKS LIKE BUNCH OF NORMAL,
SOMETIMES LOW TO MIDDLE CLASS
PEOPLE JUST MAKING A BUCK
SELLING BIRDS, LIZARDS, OR
WHATEVER.
THAT'S NOT IT.
BEHIND IT, IT'S ORGANISED CRIME
AND CORRUPTION.

A sign on a cage at the market reads "No photo."

The narrator says FREELAND WANTS THE WILDLIFE
TRADE BANNED, BUT IT'S ONLY
PART OF THE VIRUS PUZZLE.

The caption changes to "Veal Renh, Cambodia."

The narrator says ON AN EARLY MORNING IN SOUTHERN
CAMBODIA, DISEASE HUNTER VIBOL
HUL, FROM THE RENOWNED PASTEUR
INSTITUTE, IS COLLECTING TRAPS.
HIS TARGET, RODENTS,
ESPECIALLY RATS.
THIS IS BRAND-NEW RESEARCH
PROMPTED BY RECENT CASES OF
HEPATITIS E JUMPING FROM RATS
TO HUMANS IN PLACES LIKE HONG
KONG.
(SQUEAKING)
IT'S A SIGN THAT SCIENTISTS
ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ON THE
LOOKOUT FOR EMERGING DISEASES
BEFORE THEY CAN SPREAD.
VIBOL'S TEAM WILL ALSO TEST FOR
ARENAVIRUSES, AFTER A NEW
OUTBREAK OF LASSA FEVER IN
AFRICA.

Vibol is in his late twenties, with short straight brown hair and shadow of a moustache. He wears a pale gray T-shirt.

Vibol says "We know that the virus can kill humans. Thus, we want to see how Cambodians could be affected by the virus."
A man says "So he has his own trap. So this is a local trap."

The narrator says IT WAS VIBOL'S OWN CHILDHOOD
STRUGGLE WITH ILLNESSES LIKE
MALARIA THAT LED HIM INTO A
LIFE OF RESEARCH.

The caption changes to "Vibol Hul. Institut Pasteur Du Cambodge."

Vibol says "And in Cambodia as a developing country, we think that there are diseases that affect children and adults where we don't know the cause. I think that my job can play a role in solving this issue."

A woman says "My house has a lot (of rats). Can I have a trap?"

The narrator RODENTS THRIVE IN HUMAN
ENVIRONMENTS, AND WHEN
ECOSYSTEMS ARE DISRUPTED,
REMOVING THEIR NATURAL
PREDATORS.
NEAR THE TEAM'S RESEARCH WORK
ARE SCENES BEING REPEATED
ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA.
HUMANS ARE PUSHING FURTHER
INTO THE FOREST FOR
AGRICULTURE, HOUSING, AND
ROADS.
IN RETURN, VIRUSES ONCE KEPT
WITHIN THE CANOPY ARE SPILLING
OVER.
THE WHO ESTIMATES THAT ABOUT
70 percent OF ALL INFECTIOUS DISEASES
AFFECTING HUMANS COME FROM
ANIMALS.
FOR YEARS, THE PASTEUR
SCIENTISTS HAVE CONTRIBUTED
THEIR FINDINGS TO SPECIAL
DATABASES.
A PREDICTIVE PANDEMIC MAP,
UPDATED IN 2020, SHOWS HOTSPOTS
WITH A GREATER RISK OF VIRUS
TRANSMISSION TO HUMANS.
RODENTS AND BATS ARE AMONG THE
MAIN SOURCES OF DISEASE.
UNLIKE THE ANIMALS CAUGHT FOR
TESTING IN OTHER RESEARCH,
THESE RODENTS WON'T MAKE IT OUT
ALIVE.

Vibol says "Normally we don't want to kill the rats because they are also living things. Our aim is just to find the virus."

The narrator says ON TOP OF THE USUAL SAMPLING,
THE ANIMALS ARE DISSECTED AND
THEIR ORGANS ARE HARVESTED TO
ANALYSE BACK IN THE MAIN LAB.
LATER THE SAME DAY, THE TEAM
HEADS OUT TO PLACE MORE TRAPS.
A FOLLOW-UP TEAM WILL ALSO TAKE
SAMPLES FROM THE VILLAGERS.
(DOG BARKING)

At the village, Vibol holds a couple of traps and says "Today is just the second day so I put them here. So where should I put them?"

A woman says "You can put them near the container and kitchen."

The narrator says THE FIRST STAGE OF THIS
RESEARCH IS DETERMINING THE
PREVALENCE OF VIRUSES IN LOCAL
RATS AND RESIDENTS.
THAT WILL LEAD TO ACTION, AND
PERHAPS ANTIVIRAL TREATMENTS
LATER.
BACK IN PHNOM PENH, THE SAMPLES
WILL UNDERGO INTENSIVE TESTING.

Vibol says BECAUSE THIS IS, ACTUALLY,
THIS IS FROM PRELIMINARY
STUFF...

The narrator says VIBOL UPDATES HIS COLLEAGUE
ERIK KARLSSON ON HIS RESEARCH.

Erik is in his thirties, bald and clean-shaven and wears jeans and a black T-shirt.

He says IT LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A GOOD
POSITIVE ON THIS ONE.
IS THAT RIGHT?
SO, YOU'VE GOT A GOOD POSITIVE.

Vibol says YEAH, WE'VE GOT A GOOD
POSITIVE.
IT'S QUITE INTERESTING.
RAT INSIDE THE CAGE.

Erik says THIS WAS AT THE MARKET.

The narrator says AND WHILE VIBOL FOLLOWS UP ON
EMERGING PATHOGENS, ERIK
OVERSEES SURVEILLANCE OF A
SERIOUS ONGOING THREAT.

A clip shows Erik and a group of scientists taking samples at the market.

Erik says "Here in Southeast Asia is a hotspot of avian influenza. We have numerous cases and it's been circulating endemically in bird populations for 20-plus years. We're still seeing human avian influenza cases in Asia. We still see new sub-types emerging."

The narrator says CASES USUALLY INCREASE AROUND
FESTIVALS WHEN THE DEMAND
FOR POULTRY EXPLODES.
BUT BIRD FLU IS SEEN AS SUCH A
RISK THAT ERIK'S TEAM TESTS AT
MARKETS 16 TIMES A YEAR.

The caption changes to "Doctor Erik Karlsson. Institut Pasteur Duc Cambodge."

Erik says SO THE REASON THAT WE HAVE TO
MONITOR INFLUENZA SO CLOSELY IS
THAT IT MUTATES SO RAPIDLY.
NOW, MOST OF THE TIME, THOSE
MUTATIONS AREN'T GOING TO DO
MUCH TO THE VIRUS.
HOWEVER, SOMETIMES, IT CAN
CHANGE THE WAY IT BINDS TO A
CELL, SO IT CAN GO, MAYBE,
BETTER INTO A HUMAN.
SOMETIMES IT MEANS IT CAN
REPLICATE FASTER.
SOMETIMES IT MEANS THAT IT CAN
GET AROUND THE ANTI-VIRALS THAT
WE HAVE, AND THOSE ARE ALL
REALLY MAJOR PROBLEMS.
(CHICKS CHEEPING)

The narrator says THE MARKETS THEMSELVES POSE
AN ADDITIONAL RISK.
BIRDS ARE KILLED ON-SITE BEFORE
BEING TAKEN TO LOCAL
RESTAURANTS.
THE BLOOD MAKES THESE AREAS
WHAT SCIENTISTS CALL
"BIO-INSECURE" AND INCREASES
THE CHANCES OF A VIRUS
INFECTING WORKERS.

Erik says THE MORE TIMES IT JUMPS INTO
A HUMAN, THE MORE CHANCE IT HAS
TO ADAPT TO HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY TO
MAKE IT A WORSE DISEASE IN
HUMANS, AND THEN EVENTUALLY,
THAT'S GOING TO POSSIBLY BECOME
TRANSMISSIBLE FROM HUMAN TO
HUMAN, AND THAT'S WHEN WE END UP
WITH ANOTHER PANDEMIC.

The narrator says WHEN A VIRUS MAKES IT FROM A
MARKET SETTING TO OTHER PARTS
OF OUR TOWNS AND CITIES, THE
DANGER GROWS.

A woman sneezes.

(SNEEZING)

The narrator says TRANSMISSION CAN INCLUDE SALIVA
EXPELLED INTO THE AIR, AND A
NEW VIRUS REACHES SOMEONE
ELSE'S AIRWAYS.
IT HITS MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND
ENTERS A CELL.
THE VIRUSES ADAPTABLE TO HUMANS
HAVE A STRUCTURE LIKE A PROTEIN
SPIKE THAT FITS WITH RECEPTORS
ON THE HUMAN CELL.
THIS EFFECTIVELY UNLOCKS THE
DOOR.
THE CELL HAS MECHANISMS TO
REPRODUCE HUMAN DNA, WHICH THE
VIRUS TAKES OVER TO MAKE COPIES
OF ITSELF.
THE COPIES LEAVE AND INFECT
OTHER CELLS, ESPECIALLY IF THE
IMMUNE SYSTEM DOESN'T MOUNT AN
EARLY RESPONSE.
IN ANOTHER PART OF PHNOM PENH,
EPIDEMIOLOGIST ARATA HIDANO IS
TESTING ANIMALS THAT MIGHT POSE
AN EVEN HIGHER PANDEMIC RISK
THAN BIRDS.
HE'S FROM THE LONDON SCHOOL OF
HYGIENE AND TROPICAL DISEASE,
PARTNERED WITH SINGAPORE'S
DUKE-NUS MEDICAL SCHOOL.
THIS IS A PIG SLAUGHTERHOUSE.
(SNORTING, SQUEALING)

Arata says OKAY, LET'S TAKE SAMPLES.

The narrator says ARATA'S TEAM IS TESTING FOR
H1N1 SWINE FLU.
(SQUEALING)
IT'S A NEW PROJECT FUNDED BY
THE U.S. DEFENCE THREAT
REDUCTION AGENCY, WHICH
NORMALLY FOCUSES ON WEAPONS OF
MASS DESTRUCTION.
THAT'S HOW SERIOUSLY EXPERTS
ARE TAKING THE PANDEMIC THREAT.

The caption changes to "Doctor Arata Hidano. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health."

Arata is in his thirties, with short straight brown hair. He wears a white polo T-shirt.

He says OF COURSE THEY'RE INTERESTED
IN BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS BUT
THEY'RE ALSO INTERESTED IN
EMERGING VIRUSES THAT CAN
THREATEN PUBLIC HEALTH AND ALSO
ECONOMIES OF MANY COUNTRIES IN
THE WORLD.
(PIGS SQUEALING)

The narrator says THE PORK INDUSTRY IS GETTING
BIGGER AND MORE INTENSIVE AS
THE REGION'S HUMAN POPULATION
GROWS AND CAN AFFORD MORE
ANIMAL PROTEIN.
BUT THE WAY PIGS ARE RAISED AND
TRANSPORTED IS BRINGING THEM IN
CLOSER CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER,
WITH OTHER ANIMALS AND WITH
HUMANS.
AND PIGS HAVE A SPECIAL
VULNERABILITY.
THEY HAVE RECEPTORS IN THEIR
AIRWAYS THAT BIND TO FLU
VIRUSES FROM BOTH BIRDS AND
HUMANS.
(SQUEALING)

Arata says AND THIS IS CONCERN BECAUSE
WHEN THESE TWO DIFFERENT
VIRUSES INFECT ONE CELL AT THE
SAME TIME, INSIDE THE CELL,
THEY CAN CREATE NEW TYPE OF
VIRUS THAT HAVE DIFFERENT
GENETIC COMPONENTS FROM BIRD
AND HUMAN VIRUS.
THAT MEANS WE ARE VERY
SUSCEPTIBLE, WE DON'T HAVE
IMMUNITIES AND THAT CAN
POTENTIALLY CAUSE A PANDEMIC.

The narrator says IT WAS H1N1 SWINE FLU THAT
CAUSED THE SPANISH FLU PANDEMIC
OF 1918, WHICH KILLED TENS OF
MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.
THAT STRAIN FADED AWAY BUT NEW
ONES KEEP EMERGING.
SCIENTISTS LIKE ARATA NOW HAVE
A MORE SOPHISTICATED
UNDERSTANDING OF THE VIRUSES
TRANSMITTED BETWEEN ANIMALS,
AND THE ONES THAT MIGHT AFFECT
US, BUT IT'S STILL NOT ENOUGH.

Arata says WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT
THERE ARE SO MANY VIRUSES WE
DON'T KNOW YET IN THE WORLD.
WE JUST STARTED DISCOVERING AND
AS WE SEARCH MORE, WE WILL FIND
MORE.

The narrator says THIS TRAINED VETERINARIAN
GOT INTO EPIDEMIOLOGY BECAUSE
HE BECAME FASCINATED BY THE
ROLE HUMANS PLAY IN UNLEASHING
VIRUSES.

Arata says THERE'S ALWAYS CONSTANT
FEEDBACK LOOP BETWEEN OUR
BEHAVIOURS AND HOW DISEASE
SPREADS, AND WITHOUT
UNDERSTANDING THE SYSTEM, WE
CAN'T CONTROL THE DISEASE.

The narrator says AND IT'S PARTLY HUMAN
BEHAVIOUR THAT EXPLAINS WHY
VIRUSES THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN
ELIMINATED BY NOW ARE STILL A
THREAT, WITH A PAINFUL HUMAN
COST.

The caption changes to "Singapore."

The narrator says IN SINGAPORE, A HOSPITAL DATING
BACK MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS
IS NO LONGER NEEDED AND AWAITS
REDEVELOPMENT.
IT ONCE HOUSED PATIENTS
STRICKEN WITH VIRUSES AND OTHER
DISEASES THAT WERE DREADED
WORLDWIDE, LIKE BUBONIC PLAGUE
AND SMALLPOX.
SMALLPOX KILLED HUNDREDS OF
MILLIONS OVER THE CENTURIES.
FROM THE LATE 1960S A
CONCERTED EFFORT OF TRACING
AND VACCINATION GOT UNDERWAY,
AND SMALLPOX WAS ERADICATED
BY 1980.
THE HOSPITAL ALSO TREATED
VICTIMS OF POLIO.
THAT CRIPPLING VIRUS HAD ITS
LAST LOCAL CASE IN 1978.
EXPERTS THOUGHT POLIO WOULD
FOLLOW SMALLPOX AND BE
ERADICATED EVERYWHERE BY THE
1990S.
SO, WHAT WENT WRONG?

(music plays)

The caption changes to "San José del Monte, Philippines."

The narrator says IN THE PHILIPPINES, COMMUNITY
NURSE CLAUDIA DOMDOM IS ON AN
URGENT MISSION IN A CITY EAST
OF MANILA.
SHE'S LOOKING FOR CHILDREN WHO
HAVE NOT BEEN VACCINATED
AGAINST POLIO.
SHE'S GOT ONE MORE WEEK TO
REACH 95 percent OF THEM, IN A
COMMUNITY OF 10,000 PEOPLE.

Claudia vaccinates a baby and says "Okay. See? We're done."

The narrator says THIS COMES AFTER THE COUNTRY
SAW ITS FIRST POLIO OUTBREAK IN
ALMOST 20 YEARS.

Claudia says VERY GOOD!

She says "Going house to house especially in the middle of a pandemic is very difficult. So you're striving to accomplish your target."

The narrator says ONE OF THE CHALLENGES IS
GROWING RESISTANCE FROM
PARENTS.

A man says "Because I am not sure about my wife. Because we were told in Marilao that there are issues regarding vaccines."

The caption changes to "Claudia Domdom. Community Nurse."

Claudia is in her thirties, with long straight brown hair in a half do and wears a blue and gray T-shirt.

She says "And they really refuse. They are afraid because they hear news through social media or TV about vaccines, that it's not safe to receive vaccines. We hear reasons like that."

The narrator says SO-CALLED WILD POLIO WAS
OFFICIALLY ERADICATED HERE IN
2000.
THE DANGER NOW IS
VACCINE-DERIVED POLIO.
THE PHILIPPINES AND SOME OTHER
COUNTRIES USE A CHEAP ORAL
VACCINE THAT CONTAINS A
WEAKENED BUT LIVE VERSION OF
THE VIRUS.
IT CAN MUTATE AND BE RELEASED
BACK INTO THE ENVIRONMENT,
USUALLY THROUGH DEFECATION.
SO, IT THREATENS CHILDREN WHO
AREN'T IMMUNIZED.
TO BE SAFE, A SOCIETY NEEDS
95 percent VACCINATION FOR HERD
IMMUNITY.
THE PERCENTAGE HERE, AND
ELSEWHERE, HAS BEEN SLIPPING
BELOW THAT TARGET FOR YEARS.
WILD POLIO NOW ONLY EXISTS IN
PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN.
BUT IN 2020, VACCINE-DERIVED
POLIO CASES WERE REPORTED IN 18
COUNTRIES.

The map shows the countries with vaccine-derived polio cases mainly in Africa and South East Asia.

The narrator says IT'S AN INSIDIOUS AND HIGHLY
CONTAGIOUS DISEASE.
THE VIRUS USUALLY REPLICATES IN
THE INTESTINES, BUT IF IT GETS
INTO THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, IT
DAMAGES MOTOR NEURONS, WHICH
SEND MESSAGES TO MUSCLES.
THEY WASTE AWAY, CAUSING
PARALYSIS IN THE LIMBS.
CRANIAL NERVES CAN ALSO BE
PARALYSED, AFFECTING SWALLOWING
AND TALKING, AND IT CAN AFFECT
THE LUNGS, MAKING BREATHING
DIFFICULT OR IMPOSSIBLE.

Claudia says "Let's just finish this one, then we'll eat."

The narrator says SO CLAUDIA PUSHES ON.
HER TARGET IS TO IMMUNISE 1,000
CHILDREN THIS WEEK, OR 200 A
DAY.

Claudia vaccines another child and says THANK YOU.

She says "My dream was to become a nurse, because since childhood, that's how I pictured who I'd be when I grew up. I love my job very much, which is why when I accomplish tasks and give care to my patients, they truly appreciate you with all their hearts."

The caption changes to "Maguidanao, Philippines."

The narrator says HUNDREDS OF KILOMETRES TO THE
SOUTH, DOCTORS ARE STILL
FINDING VICTIMS OF THE NEW
POLIO OUTBREAK.
THREE-YEAR-OLD ALZAMER CAN NO
LONGER WALK.
HIS 21-YEAR-OLD FATHER HAS TO
LOOK AFTER HIM ALL DAY.

The caption changes to "Piamama Lumomba. Alzamer's Father."

Piamama has short straight brown hair and wears rolled up jeans and a black T-shirt with an inscription on the front.

He says "I didn't know that there exists a disease like polio. When my son was still healthy, he was so bubbly. I think I was on the verge of losing my mind when I saw the child couldn't walk."

The narrator says THEY LIVE WITH ALZAMER'S
GRANDMOTHER.
HIS MOTHER HAS LEFT.

The caption changes to "Ulsah Lumomba. Alzamer's Grandmother."

Ulsah is in her seventies and wears gray trousers, a printed blouse and a striped headscarf.

She says "He was walking, he really could already walk. I failed to bring him (for vaccination) because I was scared he'd catch a fever. I didn't think he'd end up like this."

She wipes off her tears.

The narrator says THIS SWAMPY, IMPOVERISHED
AREA HAS TYPICAL POLIO RISK
FACTORS.
SANITATION IS A CHALLENGE WITH
A COMMUNAL TOILET.
ALZAMER CAN'T EVEN MAKE IT THAT
FAR.
HE DEFECATES ON THE PORCH, AND
HIS FATHER DEALS WITH IT.
IT'S LIKELY ALZAMER WAS
INFECTED FROM LOCAL WATER OR
SURFACES TAINTED WITH FAECAL
MATTER.
SOMETIMES THE FAMILY TRAVELS
MORE THAN AN HOUR TO GO TO
HOSPITAL.
PAEDIATRICIAN JULIETA SIAPNO IS
OVERSEEING MORE THAN HALF A
DOZEN CHILDREN WITH POLIO.
(CRYING)
THEY GET A CHECK-UP AND
SOMETIMES REHAB SESSIONS.

The caption changes to "Doctor Julieta Siapno. Meguindanao Provincial Hospital."

Julieta is in her late thirties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair and wears a printed red sweater and a white coat.

She says "I feel sad because this is one of the vaccine- preventable diseases. There is a possibility that the outbreak will become serious if we will not be able to control it as soon as possible."

The narrator says THE NUMBERS ARE STILL IN THE
HUNDREDS WORLDWIDE, BUT THE WHO
SAYS IF JUST ONE CHILD IS
INFECTED, CHILDREN IN ALL
COUNTRIES ARE AT RISK.
IT WARNS THAT IF POLIO ISN'T
ERADICATED, THERE COULD BE UP
TO 200,000 NEW CASES A YEAR
WITHIN 10 YEARS.
FOR NOW, ALZAMER FACES A
LIFETIME OF CHALLENGES THAT
COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.
(CHATTERING)

The narrator says BACK IN SAN JOSE DEL MONTE, A
MONTH HAS PASSED AND CLAUDIA IS
DOING VACCINATIONS FOR OTHER
DISEASES.
SHE'S BEEN OFF WORK BECAUSE SHE
AND HER HUSBAND CONTRACTED
COVID-19.

Claudia says "Your body feels heavy, it hurts, the pain in the body, all your joints down to your fingers, your wrist, knees, hips. I would always pray. "I hope the kids don't catch the virus. Then you'll hear your child crying because she wants to lie down beside you but she can't. That was the hardest part."

The narrator says BUT HER WORK CONTINUES, TO
FIGHT DISEASE AND PREVENT MORE
SUFFERING.

Claudia says "Because I took an oath for this duty. I swore an oath."

The narrator EXPERTS SAY RICHER NATIONS
SHOULD HELP DEVELOPING
COUNTRIES GET VACCINATION RATES
UP AND STAMP OUT POLIO WHILE
THERE'S STILL TIME.
FRONTLINE STAFF LIKE CLAUDIA DO
THEIR BEST, BUT, AS WITH
SMALLPOX, INTERNATIONAL
CO-OPERATION IS THE ONLY
ANSWER.
AND CO-OPERATION IS ALSO URGENT
ON COVID-19, WHICH IS STILL
SPREADING HERE AND ELSEWHERE.
SO, DISEASE HUNTERS ARE
COLLABORATING WORLDWIDE.
FROM ICELAND TO SINGAPORE,
THEY'RE USING THE LATEST
TECHNOLOGY TO HUNT AND FIGHT
THE NEW CORONAVIRUS AS IT
SPREADS AND MUTATES.

(music plays)

The caption changes to "Reykjavik, Iceland."

The narrator says MANY COUNTRIES STILL HAVE THEIR
BORDERS SHUT TIGHT TO VISITORS,
BUT ICELAND IS TRYING A
DIFFERENT APPROACH.
NEW ARRIVALS AT REYKJAVIK
AIRPORT ARE SWABBED FOR
COVID-19 THEN GO INTO FIVE
DAYS' QUARANTINE.
IF THEY TEST NEGATIVE AT THE
END OF THAT PERIOD, THEY'RE
FREE TO GO.
BUT DESPITE THE APPARENT
NORMALCY HERE, DISEASE HUNTERS
ARE HARD AT WORK.
THEY'RE TRACKING COVID-19 IN
REAL TIME, MAKING ICELAND A
KIND OF GENETIC LABORATORY.
A LOCAL COMPANY WITH A LONG
HISTORY IN STUDYING GENETICS
AND DISEASE IS TAKING THE LEAD.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF BLOOD
SAMPLES GATHERED OVER THE YEARS
ARE KEPT AT A CONSTANT MINUS-24
DEGREES.
THE COMPANY HAS BEEN SEQUENCING
THE DNA OF EVERY ICELANDER.
NOW THE FOUNDER IS APPLYING THE
SAME APPROACH TO COVID-19.

The caption changes to "Kari Stefansson. DeCODE Genetics."

Kari is in his sixties, with short white hair and a beard. He wears glasses and a white shirt.

He says "Every time we started to work on a new disease, we had to answer the question 'What is it that has yet to be understood about this disease?' And then all of a sudden, we have in our lap a disease with all questions unanswered. So in many ways that generated a feast for us."

The narrator says SWABS ARRIVE AT DECODE FROM
THE AIRPORT AND TESTING
CENTRES EVERY HOUR OR SO.
THE COMPANY IS SEQUENCING THE
GENETIC CODE OF EVERY POSITIVE
COVID-19 CASE.
THE FIRST STEP IS ISOLATING THE
VIRUS'S RNA.
THEN OTHER TESTS ARE DONE TO
CONFIRM THE POSITIVE CASE, AND
DO THE PRECISE GENETIC
SEQUENCING.

A scientist at the lab says "A tourist was weakly positive, probably recovered. So that's how it looks here. That makes sense."

The narrator says THIS VIRUS IS A STRING OF
ALMOST 30,000 REPETITIONS OF
THE LETTERS A, U, G AND C,
REPRESENTING DIFFERENT
PROTEINS.
WHEN CELLS MAKE COPIES, THERE
ARE SOMETIMES TYPOS, AND A
MUTATION OCCURS WHEN ONE OF THE
LETTERS CHANGES, SUCH AS FROM
AN A TO A G.

A scientist at the lab says TRANSMISSION CHAINS.

The narrator says DECODE IS TAKING THOSE
MUTATIONS AND MAPPING OUT A
KIND OF GROWING FAMILY TREE,
CONNECTING THE INFECTIONS TO
EACH OTHER.

Kari says "We could from the very beginning determine the geographic origin of the virus in every single case in Iceland. So having this sequencing of this virus gives you an overview of where the virus is coming from. Who is infecting whom, determine whether there is a lot of infected people coming into the country or whether this is simply a community spread."

The narrator says UNDERSTANDING THE MUTATIONS AND
PATH OF THE VIRUS ALSO HELPS
MAKE DECISIONS MUCH FASTER THAN
IN THE PAST.
THE SCIENTISTS DETERMINED THAT
CHILDREN WERE LESS LIKELY TO
SPREAD THE VIRUS, SO LOCAL
SCHOOLS STAYED OPEN.
THE DECODE SCIENTISTS ARE
SHARING THEIR INFORMATION WITH
OTHER DISEASE HUNTERS AROUND
THE WORLD, ON A DATABASE CALLED
GISAID.
IT WAS STARTED FOR INFLUENZA,
BUT HAS TAKEN ON AN URGENT NEW
ROLE.

The caption changes to "Singapore."

The narrator says AT SINGAPORE'S A*STAR,
SEBASTIAN MAURER-STROH CHECKS
IN ON A TEAM PROCESSING THE
INCOMING GISAID INFORMATION.

Sebastian is in his forties, with short straight brown hair and wears black trousers, a blue shirt and a face mask.

He walks in the data centre and says "Shah, how many sequences do we have from Iceland? Have you seen these new sequences from Moldova and Montenegro? So the very first ones."

The narrator says SINGAPORE IS WORKING WITH TEAMS
IN EUROPE AND SOUTH AMERICA TO
KEEP THE SYSTEM GOING 24 HOURS
A DAY.
THEY CURATE THE GENETIC
SEQUENCES THEN UPLOAD THEM, SO
SCIENTISTS CAN SEE HOW THE
VIRUS IS CHANGING AROUND THE
WORLD.
The caption changes to "Doctor Sebastian Maurer-Stroh Bioinformatics Institutes, A*Star."

Sebastian says THAT'S OKAY, BECAUSE WE...
YEAH, WE WANT THE COLOURING AT
THE BRANCHES.
I'M USING COMPUTERS TO HUNT
VIRUSES OR TO HUNT MUTATIONS IN
VIRUSES.
AND SINCE THEY MOVE VERY FAST,
WE ALSO NEED TO MOVE FAST.
THE AREA THAT WE'RE IN,
BIOINFORMATICS, ALLOWS YOU TO
MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE SEQUENCES
RELATIVELY QUICKLY.
IN THE COMPUTER, SOMETIMES WE
GET THIS NEW SEQUENCE IN AND
WITHIN MINUTES, WE KNOW THAT'S
SOMETHING INTERESTING, THAT'S
SOMETHING NEW.

The narrator says A*STAR'S POWERFUL SERVER
CRUNCHES ALL THE TERABYTES OF
INFORMATION, WITH MORE THAN
100,000 GENETIC SEQUENCES
PROCESSED SO FAR.
THIS PRODUCES DETAILED
DATABASES AND 3D MODELS WHICH
SCIENTISTS EVERYWHERE CAN
ACCESS FOR FREE.
THIS IS THE CORONAVIRUS'S
SPIKE.
THE COLOURED DOTS ARE
MUTATIONS.

An animated 3D model of the virus shows an intricate cluster of curly wiry strings with red dots.

Sebastian says YOU CONSTANTLY NEED TO KEEP A
LOOKOUT BECAUSE THE VIRUS
CHANGES OFTEN IN RANDOM
POSITIONS, BUT IF IT AFFECTS
WHERE YOUR DETECTION HAPPENS,
THEN YOU NEED TO REACT TO THAT.
AND SOMETIMES, DRUG RESISTANCE
CAN OCCUR EXACTLY AND YOU CAN
SEE THAT IN THE 3-D STRUCTURE OF
THE VIRUS WHERE THE DRUG BINDS
AND THEN YOU HAVE A MUTATION AND
THEN THE DRUG CANNOT BIND
ANYMORE.
THIS IS BOTH FOR TREATMENT WITH
ANTIBODIES, AS WELL AS FOR...
FOR VACCINES.
THAT'S WHY IT'S GOOD AND
IMPORTANT TO HAVE THIS CONSTANT
FLOW OF SEQUENCES.

The narrator says AND THE MASSIVE FLOW OF DATA
IS SPEEDING UP VACCINE
DEVELOPMENT, FOCUSING ON
PRECISE AREAS OF A VIRUS.
A LEADING VACCINE APPROACH
MODIFIES ANOTHER VIRUS TO MIMIC
THE CORONAVIRUS' SPIKE.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM RESPONDS IN
TWO WAYS.
IMMUNE CELLS OUTSIDE THE VIRUS
TRIGGER ANTIBODIES THAT BIND TO
THE SURFACE.
OTHER IMMUNE CELLS GO INSIDE
AND RESPOND ON A CELLULAR
LEVEL.
THIS PROCESS MIGHT OFFER
LONGER-LASTING IMMUNITY.
AND A LOT OF THIS IS THANKS TO
THE WORK OF THE DISEASE HUNTERS
QUICKLY SHARING THEIR DATA WITH
EACH OTHER AND THE WORLD.

Sebastian says I HOPE THIS SERVED AS A
BLUEPRINT FOR FUTURE OUTBREAKS
AND IT CAN BE APPLIED TO THE NEW
DISEASES.

The narrator says FUTURE OUTBREAKS.
NEW DISEASES.
ARE THEY INEVITABLE?
AND WHAT LESSONS ARE WE
LEARNING?
BACK IN BANGKOK, SUPAPORN HAS
NOT FINISHED ANALYSING HER
SAMPLES TO SEE IF THAI BATS
CARRY THE SAME VIRUS THAT
CAUSED THE ORIGINAL COVID-19
OUTBREAK IN CHINA.
THE VERDICT SO FAR, NO SIGN OF
THE VIRUS.
SO, DANGER IS AVERTED FOR NOW.
BUT THERE'S BEEN A WAKE-UP
CALL.
IT SEEMS WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW
WE INTERACT WITH THE NATURAL
WORLD, AND STEP UP SCIENTIFIC
SURVEILLANCE WHERE THE CITY
MEETS THE FOREST IN WAYS WE
DIDN'T PLAN FOR.
AND OUR DISEASE HUNTERS WILL
CONTINUE THEIR WORK.
AS THE NEXT VIRUS GETS READY TO
SPILL OVER, THEY'LL DO THEIR
BEST TO KEEP HUMANITY SAFE.

Music plays as the end credits roll.

Narrator, Dilly Barlow.

Series producer, Chong Yew Meng.

Executive producer, Mark Pestana.

Supervising Executive producer, Tan Lek Hwa.

Copyright 2020, MCN International Private Limited. All rights reserved.

Logo: TVF International.

Watch: The Viral Menace