World-renowned microbiologist and eminent specialist in emerging infectious diseases, Professor Didier Raoult, head of the university hospital Institute in infectious diseases in Marseille (IHU Méditerranée Infection), was commissioned by the French government in August 2002 to draw up a mission report on threats related to bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases.
According to the terms of the mission letter that he received from the Ministry of Health, he was asked, in the post-9/11 context, to “establish, in close consultation with the Senior Defence Officials of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Research, the state of play of all the public health measures and research actions included in the French and European mechanism for combating bioterrorism”, to “evaluate the public health measures currently in place to prevent and combat infectious threats” and, above all, to “put forward proposals to improve both epidemiological monitoring and the treatment by French and European laboratories of agents responsible for untreatable contagious diseases”.
The report of 374 pages that he submitted to the government on June 17, 2003, is an invaluable document. Seventeen years later, it has lost none of its relevance and remains highly topical. It provides unparalleled insight into the reasons that led – even in the most developed countries – to the many failures and shortcomings observed during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Its recommendations would deserve special attention from all governments and international institutions around the world as part of the urgent and necessary reflection on how to deal with the future risks of pandemics linked to the emergence of new contagious diseases.
We reproduce here the facsimile of the general state of play set out in the introduction to this report and the entire section devoted to new contagious diseases: