Disaster medicine and public health preparedness

Impact of Gene Editing Tools, Like CRISPR/Cas9, on the Public Health Response to Disease Outbreaks.

PMID 27640728


The purpose of this communication is to explore the implications of genome editing techniques, such as CRISPR/Cas9, on public health-related responses to outbreaks of disease. The recent commercialization of genome editing techniques makes the creation and release of genetically altered pathogens a much easier task, increasing the possibility to the point of needing discussion. Three areas need to be addressed: predictions concerning potential genetic alterations, predictions and implications concerning the release of genetically altered pathogens, and the short- and long-term implications of the release of genetically altered pathogens. Full discourse on these topics among professionals in the area of public health will help to combat harm from the use of any genetically altered biologic weapons. The topics covered here include a review of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique, including a discussion of which possibilities utilize genome editing. We then address predictions about the application of gene alterations in the context of bioweapons. We discuss a few basic concepts about the evolution of an intentionally released genetically altered organism based on circumstances and patterns gleaned from observing nature in the hope that this will aid in the public health response to bioterrorism attack. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:155-159).