It has been a long time since I last wrote: longer perhaps than it should have been. I don’t blog much any more, partly because my days are filled with things I should be doing, and I spend much of my time sleeping and evading those things. “To me responsibility, is a tragedy” to quote Sister Sledge.
Still I have been spending a lot of time looking at the news on this new coronavirus. I believe I had it back in the middle of March: two weeks of fever, and some pretty odd symptoms. I wrote an account of it on my Facebook when I was sure I was through it, but it was not a great time. Still Social Distancing and the lockdown saved the day, and now we are relaxing things, and people are talking about the risk of a second spike. I might share my warning from history: the 1918 epidemic had a March/April peak, and then seemed to fade away, before returning in November to kill a quarter of a million people in the UK. Anyway I guess my brush with the disease made me interested, and I have started to look at the figures, and to be honest I am puzzled. I was puzzled when the disease faded rapidly in Wuhan, and I am puzzled more and more. It looks like in most countries it effects 4 to 5%, kills tens large numbers and then fades away almost as quickly as it came.
So my friend Hugh and I started testing very hypotheses based on the figures. There seems to be no obvious relationship between the increasing temperature and the epidemics curve: and I can’t see data that suggests a meaningful relationship between Vitamin D and the disease, but I would take supplements anyway, just in case. Stick to the RDA though…
So what is going on? Or to put it another way, have we burned through the available population? Everyone kept telling me that 80%/65%/25% had already had it as various experts were wheeled out, but I stuck to my estimate of no more than 6 to 7%, and that might be a bit high. When the ONS figures were released and my completely amateur guess was proven right I was encouraged, and kept poking at the data.
And finally I have come up with a loony hypothesis to explain the fall in numbers and a few other things. I think I was wrong all the time, and a much higher percentage have resistance to coronavirus than I believed, or than show antibodies. Now bear in mind that I know NOTHING about microbiology, and Donald Trump would be as reliable a source as I am on this. Listen to the experts, follow government advice, ventilate your rooms and eat healthy. Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice, except that previous sentence. So naturally I posted my dingbat hypothesis on Facebook. Here it is!
I’m still trying to make some sense of this epidemic. The die off may well be social distancing, but that alone does not seem to account for it. The only thing I can think of is we may have some other factor providing resistance?
I wonder if antibodies to another human coronavirus like OC43 a betacoronavirus that causes the common cold might accidentally help? I actually believed coronaviridae was a morphological term, given the amount of horizontal gene transfer in viruses, but i guess the four virii in the genera are related.
So as a thought experiment OC43 causes 10% of colds I think, and so a LOT of people have exposure (as young people might have twelve colds a year, and households with children six). It effects the epithelial cells of the throat in a similar manner to SARS-cov2 (different receptors). This is one of the few candidates I can see for providing some resistance to the new coronavirus. So has widespread resistance saved us from far higher death tolls? I would expect then to see less new coronavirus infection in two groups: children, who are notorious for spreading respiratory illness, and women, who suffer from more colds, but are generally less severely affected by the symptoms. The elderly, who generally have less colds would therefore have less resistance: more COVID19 deaths. Urban areas would have more colds and higher resistance than remote rural areas, where transmission would be less and severity greater, if colds are less common there?
This is probably batshit for good microbiological and chemical reasons: I am to medicine what Frank Spencer was to Health & Safety. I mean is resistance from one virus to another even be possible? Yes it has to be because Jenner used Cowpox to inoculate against Smallpox,one orthopoxvirus conferring resistance to a much more deadly one. I have no idea what this is called: I never did Biology at school. (I did not want to dissect frogs!). Fortunately I did do history, and live round the corner from Jenner’s house.
However if OC43 was providing resistance, why all the deaths in care homes? And given that resistance in human coronavirii and OC43 last six to twelve months, would it produce sizeable resistance? I don’t know. However from what I have seen almost 100% of six to fourteen year olds have OC43 antibodies in their blood, at least according to a Finnish survey from 1979. If so perhaps we are the opposite of Martians, not cured by the common cold (I don’t think Wells actually specifies which virus but never mind literary accuracy) but saved by it?
This is a wild guess from someone who is frankly ignorant of the science. Note the OC43 cold antibodies might produce different proteins to the COVID19 ones, so they might not show up as no one is looking for them. However some resistance from exposure to another virus seems like the best fit for what I have seen of the data, and this was my first guess. I am however a ghost hunter and do not expect to be taken seriously, but feel free to tell me why I am wrong. Just be nice.
And of course if some colds are providing resistance, well we have all been locked down and not spreading them, but rendering this cold virus inert and inoculating with it? I guess it could be tried, but hopefully the pandemic is fading away and we will all face a bright and disease free future. Trying to work it all out on the back of a bit of paper with nothing but common sense and a questioning attitude was something my dad would have done: he was as flaky as me, and I am a proud son.
Take care folks;
love CJ x