[SystemSafety] Coronavirus mutations

Olwen Morgan olwen at phaedsys.com
Fri May 22 20:57:16 CEST 2020

As a matter of evolutionary biology, it is not in the best survival 
interest of a virus to mutate to become more virulent. If it does that, 
then it risks killing its host before that host can achieve significant 
dispersal of virus particles. Consequently, though there is a risk of 
virus mutation rendering vaccines less effective, the tendency of 
mutation to create decreased virulence will, to some extent, offset that 
effect. Of course, in the end, this all comes down to numbers and the 
relative sizes of the two effects.

Herd immunity is, however, not the only viable endgame. It is not yet 
clear for how long any acquired immunity persists, nor what factors 
affect the persistence time. In all epidemics there are several factors 
that interact together to determine the course of the disease in any 
given susceptible population. Further, /more intense/ second waves have 
been a feature of several coronavirus epidemics and this possibility 
gives rise to all sorts of uncertainty regarding the trajectory to the 
end of the epidemic.

Following the advice of my elder son, who is both a post-doctoral 
bioscientist and a qualified civil engineer, I watched the Gresham 
lectures on infectious diseases, epidemics, and Covid-19 given by Prof. 
Chris Witty. These are easily found on the Gresham College YouTube 
channel. I heartily recommend them to any non-specialist. Also, at least 
so far, I've found the Covid-19 coverage in /New Scientist/ and /The 
Economist/ to be far better than in most other media titles.



PS: The term "pharma karma" has already been coined in advance of Donald 
Trunt possibly developing a Covid-19 infection and kicking the bucket as 
a result of hydroxychloroquine making it worse. ... Far be it from me, 
however, to recommend the promulgation of this usage. ... ;-O

On 07/05/2020 16:39, Derek M Jones wrote:
> All,
> One factor that is not getting much attention in vaccine
> discussions is the risk that Coronavirus mutations will
> significantly reduce the effectiveness of a vaccine; much like
> what happens with flu vaccines:
> https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/05/07/mutations-in-the-coronavirus-spike-protein 
> Herd immunity, or at least tolerance, does appear to be the only 
> viable end-game.
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