Google has been racking up enquiries from people asking whether the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV, or Wuhan), is linked somehow to Corona beer. Constellation Brands, the juggernaut alcohol dealer which owns Corona beer and ‘elevates life with every glass raised’, say they trust consumers not to link their beverage with the ongoing epidemic that may or may not do for the 21st century what the Black Death did for the 14th century; namely kill 30% of the population (in Europe), bring the Middle Ages to a juddering end, and induce the Renaissance.
Is the Wuhan virus a game changer on that scale? Or will it burn out, as SARS did, leaving only medical footnotes behind? As the late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai reportedly said, when asked about the influence of the French Revolution, it’s too early to say. But there are clues.
If you want to get some idea of the impact of a new and infectious disease, you start with two parameters; transmission rates (R), and virulence.
The basic reproduction number (R0) of an infection is the average number of cases any one case generates over the course of its infectious period, in an otherwise uninfected population. The larger the R0, the faster and wider the infection spreads, and the harder it is to contain the epidemic.
Virulence describes how dangerous the infectious agent is. It may vary from zero (ie asymptomatic) to moderate (significant symptoms, some deaths in vulnerable groups) to severe (many deaths in the general population).
Transmission and virulence are connected via evolutionary mechanisms, in ways which show up as the epidemic spreads. As the leading edge more virulent and more transmissible strains of a virus tend to prevail, due to simple competition. Behind the leading edge, in areas where the infection has already spread, viral strains with lower virulence have an advantage as they do not kill off so many potential hosts (1, 2).
How does the Wuhan virus score on these scales?
With regard to transmission, it seems to have a high R0 value. Figures have been quoted ranging from 1.5 to 5, which is a very high number indeed (3). Such a large spread in reported values tells us that there are not enough good data yet on which to base a meaningful calculation. However, the fact that between Jan 22 and February 2 the number of reported cases in China leapt from 300 to over 11,000, a 35-fold increase, argues for high transmissibility. Leading expert Professor Gabriel Leung believes the true figure may be as high as 75,8000 (4), which would represent a 250-fold increase, and a doubling of the numbers of infected individuals every 6.2 days. If true, this is an astonishingly high transmission rate.
One factor that undoubtedly increases the risk of transmission is the fact that the new virus can be transmitted during the incubation period, by asymptomatic carriers. This did not happen with SARS, which made the SARS epidemic relatively easy to control.
The picture with virulence is also hard to estimate. One early report put fatality as high as 15%, but this was in a group of hospitalised patients with pre-existing health problems (5, 6). More recent estimates from the W.H.O are lower, at around 2% (6), but must be regarded as provisional because of major problems with the quality of the reported data. The same lack of good quality data undermines attempts to generate an accurate R0 number. We will have to wait for transmission and mortality patterns from other countries to emerge, and we will not have to wait long.
The lack of good data is not the fault of the Chinese government. They have done an amazing job, out-performing Western agencies in many ways. They identified the viral genome very quickly, shared it with other governments (thus enabling the international development of fast-track vaccines), developed a snap test which can identity the virus in a human body within 2 hours, and created a real-time information resource (7).
They also developed the ‘Wuhan Neighbours’ applet (on WeChat), that ‘determines our home’s quarantine address through satellite positioning and then locks on our affiliated community organization and volunteers, so that our social activities and information announcements can be connected to the system.”
The idea is that anyone who develops a fever reports their condition through the network as soon as possible. The system immediately provides an online diagnosis, and locates and registers the quarantine address. If that person needs to see a doctor, the local community arranges a car to send him or her to the hospital through volunteers. At the same time, the system tracks the person’s progress: hospitalization, treatment at home, discharge, death, etc.
This is impressive stuff, and light-years beyond anything we have previously seen in infection control – but there is a problem. Local politicos are not all cooperating, and in some cases the true situation is not being accurately reported. This may be due to misplaced ideas of damage control, or possibly because the situation is already beyond control (8, and English language version 9).
In some of the hardest-hit areas there are reports of corpses being ferried directly to crematoria with no identification, and without being entered into official records (10).
In short, we do not yet know how transmissible the Wuhan virus is, and we do not yet know how dangerous it is.
Everything we have seen so far is conjecture. It will take a little longer before we see data emerging from the many other countries where the virus has now been recorded. All of which leaves, in my mind, two questions. Where did it come from? And, how can we protect ourselves?
One group of virologists and geneticists have suggested that the Wuhan virus may have been manufactured (11). According to this group there are insertions in the Wuhan genome which are not present in any of the closest coronavirus families, and they state: ‘It is quite unlikely for a virus to have acquired such unique insertions naturally in a short duration of time. Instead, they can be found in cell identification and membrane binding proteins located in the HIV genome.’ This team were forced to retract their paper, but there are clinical reports coming out of Thailand that anti-HIV drugs are effective in treating this new virus (12).
Other scientists report that an analysis of the gene sequence for the coronavirus shows up a sequence called ‘pShuttle-SN (13). This sequence is the remnant of a genetic engineering sequence used to insert genes into viruses and bacteria, and more or less proves that the Wuhan coronavirus has been manipulated for some reason; either to make a bioweapon, or to make a vaccine. This is odd in itself, as the Wuhan lab is a designated W.H.O. research lab, and it is unlikely that the W.H.O. was unaware of what was being done there.
These theories are contested by other experts, needless to say, and I am not remotely qualified to make any kind of judgement on this. But I am as fond of conspiracy theories as the next man (who I think may be working for the CIA); and there are many aspects of this outbreak which are suspicious, to say the least.
China has replaced Russia as the USA’s most-hated nation. This is due to China’s unprecedented economic success and the burgeoning New Silk Roads, which have lifted over 800 million people out of poverty and threaten USA hegemony. Iran is a strategic key to China (and to Russia), being a nexus point in the New Silk Roads in South-west Asia. The USA may have decided not to bomb Iran into submission but they did initiate a draconian program of economic sanctions, hoping to starve it into submission. China stepped quickly up to the plate, offering to buy all the oil Iran could sell them. Within a matter of months China was hit by not one but three viral pandemics.
First out of the gate was African Swine Fever virus, which decimated Chinese pork production and caused immeasurable damage to the Chinese economy. Next came the Wuhan virus and now, in the last 48 hours, we have seen a resurgence of H5N1 (‘bird flu’), cutting a swathe through the poultry farms of Hunan (13).
Wuhan struck at the peak of the most congested travel period of the Chinese year, and it struck in Wuhan, the location of China’s most highly rated biolab. US politicians such as senator Tom Cotton say this new coronavirus is a bioweapon that escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Department of Emerging Infectious Disease. I’m not so sure.
Much of the research done in that institute focusses on the control of emergent viruses such as 2019-nCoV – and yes, they study bats. Bats have evolved very specific immune mechanisms to protect themselves from new viruses, and are able to cohabit with them quite happily. This makes them not only potentially dangerous reservoirs of infection, but also immunological blueprints which, if we could unravel them, might allow us to enjoy the same protection. One of the world’s leading experts in this area, Dr Peng Zhou, works at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and has published ground-breaking papers in this important area of disease control (ie 14). These people know what they are doing, and I do not believe the story, spread by the Western media, that the virus ‘escaped’ from the lab.
Wuhan has, in my view, characteristics of a false flag operation.
If you were a hostile actor concerned with the Thucydides Trap, and you wanted to hit China with a viral bioweapon, where better to do so than in Wuhan where there are patsies made to order? And when better than now, at the Chinese New Year?
All of this is mere supposition, of course, and it is also possible that Chinese scientists did indeed create this new virus either as a bioweapon or in order to make protective vaccines against SARS; but there is at least one more twist in the plot. Two days ago reports emerged detailing the re-emergence of bird flu, another coronavirus, in Hunan. The real worry is that at some point, made more likely every day by the apparently explosive spread of Wuhan, some lucky individual will find themselves host to both Wuhan and bird flu viral strains at the same time. As Hunan is less than 500 kilometers from Wuhan, this may already have happened.
If and when this happens, there will be random genetic exchange between the two coronaviruses, and the possibility of new strains emerging which have the transmissibility of Wuhan and the virulence of bird flu. Which has a 60-65% mortality rate. If that happens, we will have Black Death Mk 2 on our hands; and if 2019-nCoV makes us more vulnerable to other coronaviruses (15), Black Death Mk 2 may make the original version look like a Sunday picnic.
Already, the rate of increase of Wuhan outside of China is steeper than inside of China or even Wuhan itself (4, 16). A study just published in The Lancet warns that “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally” may be “inevitable” due to the “substantial exportation” of symptomless carriers of coronavirus (4).
What, if anything, can we do to protect ourselves? There are, I think, two possible strategies; one preventative, and one which may be a form of treatment. These are, respectively, the anti-adhesin VIRAL, and the innate immune accelerator KIB500.
Sialic acid, a common constituent in many foods, appears to be able to interfere with viral docking and so may help to protect against certain viral infections (17). This has a folk medicine background. In some parts of the world, mothers have traditionally splashed a drop of breast milk into a snotty baby’s nose to help it get over a cold, and some speculate that the milk’s high content of sialic acid is what makes this effective. However, it is possible that the lactoperoxidase in milk is responsible for the anti-viral effect; and while breast milk is obviously safe, there are some theoretical safety concerns about the long-term oral use of sialic acids from non-human sources (18). This story is developing, but the short-term and topical use of sialic acid is safe; and the Stockholm-based company Avia Pharma AB has launched the sialic acid nasal spray ‘Viral’, for short-term use. Initial results are extremely positive (19).
In my view sialic acid sprays such as Viral Nose Spray offer, at the time of writing, the best chance of preventing infection. If you find yourself in a vulnerable situation (crowds, obviously ill individuals etc), I recommend using the spray intra-nasally, in the mouth and across the eyes; as the virus can gain entry to the body via any of these portals.
If you or a loved one is already ill, a different strategy is needed. This is where lactoperoxidase, a critically important enzyme component of the innate immune system, comes into its own. There is persuasive evidence that the LPO system has the ability, if it is working well, to damage influenza and probably coronaviruses to the point where they cannot infect new cells in the body (20-25).
LPO is available as a commercial product, called KIB500. Itr is not a drug, and under current regulatory legislation it is illegal to recommend any non-pharmaceutical treatment for a disease state. This legislation is a medical Maginot Line, a hopelessly outdated framework which is more to do with protecting the interests of Big Pharma than preserving or improving public health. I cannot, therefore, say that KIB500 is a treatment for Wuhan or indeed any disease.
What I will say, however, is that if I or anyone I cared for were to be diagnosed with such an illness, I would use KIB500 in the first instance.
And in the meantime, it is five o’ clock somewhere.
For further information
Viral Nose Spray: http://www.aviapharma.se/
For healthcare practitioners; www.kib500.com
- Berngruber TW, Froissart R, Choisy M, Gandon S. Evolution of virulence in emerging epidemics. PLoS Pathog. 2013 Mar;9(3):e1003209.
- Griette Q, Raoul G, Gandon S. Virulence evolution at the front line of spreading epidemics. Evolution. 2015 Nov;69(11):2810-9.
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- Wu JT, Leung K, Leung GM. Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study. Lancet Jan 31, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30260-9
- Huang C, Wang MD, Li X, Ren L, Zhao J, Hu Y et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet January 24, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5
- Pradan P, Pandey AK, Mishra A, Gupta P, Tripathi PK, Meno MB, Gomes J, Vicvekanandan P, Kundu B. Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag.. doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.30.927871
- Xie J, Li Y, Shen X, Goh G, Zhu Y, Cui J, Wang LF, Shi ZL, Zhou P. Dampened STING-Dependent Interferon Activation in Bats. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Mar 14;23(3):297-301.e4.
- Tseng C-T, Sbrana E, Iwata-Yoshikawa N, Newman PC, Garron T, Atmar RL, Peters CJ, Couch RB. Immunization with SARS Coronavirus Vaccines Leads to Pulmonary Immunopathology on Challenge with the SARS Virus. PLOS ONE, April 20, 2012 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0035421
- Neu U, Bauer J, Stehle T. Viruses and sialic acids: rules of engagement. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2011 Oct;21(5):610-8.
- Samraj AN, Bertrand KA, Luben R, Khedri Z, Yu H, Nguyen D, Gregg CJ, Diaz SL, Sawyer S, Chen X, Eliassen H, Padler-Karavani V, Wu K, Khaw KT, Willett W, Varki A. Polyclonal human antibodies against glycans bearing red meat-derived non-human sialic acid N-glycolylneuraminic acid are stable, reproducible, complex and vary between individuals: Total antibody levels are associated with colorectal cancer risk. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 18;13(6):e0197464.
- SAS study ‘17. Andreassen B, in-house report and personal communication.
- Patel U, Gingerich A, Widman L, Sarr D, Tripp RA, Rada B. Susceptibility of influenza viruses to hypothiocyanite and hypoiodite produced by lactoperoxidase in a cell-free system. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 25;13(7):e0199167.
- Gingerich A, Pang L, Hanson J, Dlugolenski D, Streich R, Lafontaine ER, Nagy T, Tripp RA, Rada B. Hypothiocyanite produced by human and rat respiratory epithelial cells inactivates extracellular H1N2 influenza A virus. Inflamm Res. 2016; 65(1):71–80.
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