Mini-Throughput: Mutant Math and New Strains of Covid

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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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22 Responses

  1. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    Excellent Throughput. Its refreshing to see such good science written up here.

    The herd immunity folks believe in their hearts the pandemic will never affect them, and they openly don’t care about others. They are functionally libertarian in a deep dark way hence why they want everyone sick and dying instead of working together like wearing masks and using tax dollars to pay people to stay home.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      Second article I just read about covid where the lesson you drew is that conservatives are bad. You’re really plumbing the depths of the material today!Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        From a science perspective herd immunity without vaccinations is bad. It requires somewhere north of 3 million Americans to die, and millions more to be saddled with what we now know to be long-term medical challenges including heart issues which may kill them later.

        And they want that end because they don’t want government telling them to wear masks, stay home or use their (often) allegedly stolen tax dollars to pay people to stay home.

        I consider those things to to be “bad.” My question is why you don’t.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      I think the herd immunity folks are probably mistaken, and probably ignorant. But I think it’s way too hasty to say they (or most of them) don’t care about others. And while I realize you probably didn’t write that comment as part of an effort to convince others, it’s important to remember that telling someone they “want everyone sick and dying” would be a poor strategy if that were the comment’s intention.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to gabriel conroy
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        It’s a poor strategy to tell us we have to get to herd immunity by letting Americans get sick and die. But that is in fact what the herd immunity crowd is advocating for.

        And a great many of them – at least here in the great state of Mississippi- see nothing wrong with mass death accompanying that because they have become convinced COVID only kills “those people” and anyway, as good Christians death is not something to fear and you have to live you’re life. Or some similar bullshit. I have yet to meet anyone who can be convinced off either of those positions, even AFTER people in their families or that they are close to have been sickened and died.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    Completely off topic re footnote #2… I wonder if this is why it is traditional for the staffer at state legislatures’ committee meeting to sit at the right hand of the committee chair. One of the jobs of those staffers is to whisper in the chairman’s ear — and recall that in most states the legislators are part-time amateurs — when they’re about to make a procedural mistake.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Also, beneficial mutations tend to be limited. Can it attach better, can it resist antibodies better, can it make more copies, etc.?Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    One of the classic problems to illustrate exponential spread is this: imagine a lake is infected with an algae bloom that doubles every day. After 45 days, it has covered half the lake. How long will it take to cover the other half? The answer is one day.

    Not the point, I know, but is exponential growth a realistic model for an algae bloom? Assuming it starts with a patch that grows outward, I would expect quadratic growth.Report

  5. Avatar PD Shaw
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    I’m not sure there is any example of a virus that has become more virulent. At least nobody on the “This Week in Virology” has identified one when the subject has come up.

    During the SARS outbreak, a late variant became dominant that was believed to be more transmissible and more virulent. A subsequent study found that a deletion in ORF8 was associated with less virulence, which was believed to causing more transmissibility. (People with mild or no symptoms did not know to isolate) This same deletion has appeared at times with the current strain, and the UK variant has the deletion in ORF8. This is from a recent Lancet study:

    “ORF8 is a hotspot for coronavirus mutation. The clinical effect of deletions in this region appears to be a milder infection with less systemic release of proinflammatory cytokines and a more effective immune response to SARS-CoV-2.”

    https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)31757-8/fulltext

    Whether that describes what is happening will require the employment of actual science, not statistical correlations of associations. And that takes time. The virus is already quite transmissible and virulent as it is. People just need to keep safe and get vaccinated if they can.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    OK, but can we wipe our the virus using the Rothschild space laser?Report

  7. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    One of the interesting things about our immune system is that once it has the directions to make antibodies, the immune system itself will toy with those antibodies and cause them to mutate as well, and often in ways that track the mutation paths of the pathogen, so it doesn’t have to work as hard next time it comes up against it, even if it is a variation. It doesn’t always work, which is why the flu is an annual problem, but for most pathogens, it works well enough.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      The human body is an amazing thing. A few years ago I had a severe case of food poisoning [1] and was miserable all night in ways I will spare everyone from a detailed description of. It occurred to me later that it wasn’t that the pathogens had overwhelmed my system, it was that I was doing everything possible to expel them.

      1. Never went back to that place! (It was a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant I’d been to a hundred times,.)Report

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