What I'm Reading (Feb. 11)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Feb 11, 2021
Two stories designed to explain COVID-19’s variants and a short history of vaccines, with all the influencers and entrepreneurs with have come to love or hate.
Image courtesy of Alexandra Koch on Pixabay

“As long as the virus continues to find new human hosts, it will continue to evolve mutations to escape our immune defenses.

“The more people infected, the more likely that we will see new variants,” Michel Nussenzweig, a Rockefeller University immunologist, told The New York Times. “If we give the virus a chance to do its worst, it will.”

Both the U.K and the South Africa coronavirus variants have high escape potential.

Thankfully, scientists are on the case figuring out what form the virus’ worst may take next. A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that includes a biological engineer, a computational biologist, and a mathematician, has come up with a novel way of predicting which SARS-CoV-2 mutations can escape the human immune system.”

This is a story I wanted to report on, but Nautil.us did a far better job than me, The Dangerous Evolution of the Coronavirus. Hint: It does for the viral genome when your email does for you when it suggests the next few words to your sentence.

“Why now? 

Why have these three variants of concern popped up in such quick succession? The fact that the virus is mutating isn’t new. It’s been mutating all along.

“We’ve had many, many variants in SARS-CoV-2 for a long time now, and scientists have even been tracking these in fairly detailed ways since the summer of 2020,” Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Bern, says. “The big difference is that, before December, we hadn’t really seen any variants that seemed to be behaving any differently.” (By “behaving differently” she means that the virus itself didn’t seem at the time to be more infectious, or more dangerous in any intrinsic way.)

Hodcroft and others who study the evolution of viruses provide a few overlapping answers to the question “Why now?” None of them perfectly explain what’s going on.”

The short answer, evolution. You can find a longer, and I think, more satisfactory explanation in this article from VOX, 4 reasons we’re seeing these worrying coronavirus variants now

Finally, a bit of vaccine history – providing some context for today’s vaccination woes.

“The contract with the inoculator was to accept a mild form of the disease, and a low chance of death, in exchange for a future secured from the naturally occurring disease, which carried a high chance of killing or disfiguring.”

There is much to learn from the history of smallpox and vaccination. It is a tale that continues with many of the same roles eminence, entrepreneurs, influencers, and of course, the hesitant. From the London Review of Books, through the clarity of The Browser, A Pox on the Poor

Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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