It has been several weeks since I wrote about SARS-CoV-2, and during that time, things have gone from bad to worse. I have been teaching microbiology for many years now, and staying updated is my job and passion. So, here are a few updates and predictions from the world of SARS-CoV-2.
If you wish to dive into the nitty-gritty details of SARS-CoV-2, please join me in the MIT course, “Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the Pandemic.” You can find the class if you Google the title. It is free, and each lecture is about one hour long. These lessons are delivered by world-renowned scientists. I am almost caught up in the course and can verify that it has been outstanding. A great refresher, and I have learned a great deal new also. The course covers the virus, virology in general, immunology, vaccines and epidemiology, to name a few. The remaining lectures in the series will cover antibodies, therapeutics and science’s rapid research response. I am looking forward to them.
The next update is a bit depressing. Having talked to many colleagues and medical professionals over the past few weeks, I can say the general mood is a mixture of shock, sadness, disgust and hope. The first few moods stem from ridiculous misinformation and ignorance concerning this virus, often spreading faster than the virus itself. Debunking it all would take volumes. For many, it would fall on deaf ears because the information runs counter to their opinion. No amount of expertise or fact is capable of killing conspiracy outright.
As I write this, our country has passed the 10.5 million mark in case counts, over 150,000 in a single day this week. The 14-day case count average is up by 70%. Hospitalizations are logically rising also, passing 65,000 recently and up nearly 40% in the past 14 days. Sadly, deaths are increasing too. We are closing in on 250,000 lives lost, and the 14-day average is up 36%, approaching 1,500 per day. An increase in cases will lead to a rise in hospitalizations and in deaths a few weeks later. It is a predictable, straightforward and unavoidable formula.
The virus will continue to copy itself effectively, using us as the host. It is a code of RNA wrapped in some lipids and protein, and it has one directive — make more of me. The virus ignores politics, and every single social media conspiracy. We determine how quickly it spreads by ignoring basic safety rules. Misinformation, willful ignorance, and our need to socialize without safety rules in place are giving this virus a long leash. Suppose we continue this trend into the colder months. In that case, we will see hospitals overrun, freezer trucks for the dead (already in El Paso) and large-scale shutdowns of businesses.
Hope lies with scientific progress and education. Vaccines are on the way, and some look promising. Llama nanobodies and monoclonal antibody therapies hold great promise. A recent study using nebulized interferon beta-1a (SNG001) looks beneficial. Another recent article titled “Evolution of Antibody Immunity to SARS-CoV-2” gives hope to the notion that our natural antibodies will last six months or more. Science will save the day, but we could all help by listening to the basic science needed to flatten the curve before effective vaccines and treatments are widely distributed. The latter is still many months away.