The panic and confusion surrounding the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus requires a systematic study of the disease (COVID-19) and the arsenal of weapons available to the biochemist in the fight against infection. When developing a particularly bad flu in January 2020 while in India after the visit of a friend, who had just travelled back from Wuhan (China), it gave me an early opportunity to study the tricky diagnosis of this dreaded disease first-hand.
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The somewhat unusual symptoms and a lingering weakness and malaise for months suggested that it was no ordinary influenza virus. Since that time, a baffling number of disparate symptoms have been ascribed to COVID-19 infection including respiratory, gastrointestinal, circulatory, urinary tract and nerve dysfunction that have even resulted in multi-organ failure in some cases.
Naturally, an array of risk factors have also been identified ranging from age, sex, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension to cigarette smoking that can increase mortality rate dramatically. In the intervening period, much research has appeared on biochemical compounds that may help to prevent this infection and, possibly, aid in patient recovery. Among these bioactive molecules are certain anti-inflammatory substances such as vitamin D, zinc, chloroquine, soy isoflavones like genistein, and glycyrrhizic acid, some of which may be successful in attacking different biochemical processes of the new coronavirus and disarming its deadly artillery against the human host.
In a few instances, the viral processes that are inhibited by these chemicals are essential for the replication and reproduction of this RNA virus thereby striking a lethal blow to its machinery. Thus, taken together, these compounds may form a worthy arsenal against a formidable foe in the absence of an effective vaccine, and, especially, if relapse or re-infection proves to be a common occurrence in recovered COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Moondust, cancer biologist and founder of Moondust Cosmetics comments on the much anticipated Corona virus vaccine. It’s the top story round the world with good reason. Now, with the approval of some vaccines and the nearing approval of more to come, early distribution has begun.
Here’s Dr. Moondust’s update on what we need to know about the four top vaccines in circulation:
1. Dr. Moondust, thank you for joining us. Why don’t we start with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine?
So, there are always pros & cons in a situation – let’s consider some.
First, it’s a new messenger RNA vaccine and I’ve looked into that a bit – it seems to be rapidly degraded by the human body so persistence shouldn’t be an issue. (92% effective)
Next, the vaccine has to be stored at -70-80 C, which could make transport and distribution challenging. At the same time, it’s a plus because it’s hard to tamper with something that’s literally frozen solid.
Tampering? Do you really think that is an issue we should be concerned with?
Certainly, terrorism is a real threat in society these days & this would be a potential opportunity for bioterrorism or other criminal activity.
Finally, there’s that unknown element of unintended consequences from mRNA vaccines. Only time & statistics will tell.
2. Now, we also have Moderna. What do you have to say about the Moderna vaccine?
So, it’s another new mRNA vaccine & we’ve discussed the pros & cons of that. (94% effective & confers at least three months immunity in a preliminary study)
Next, it can be stored at -20 C in a regular freezer, which is an advantage for transport & distribution. However, that’s just like a Popsicle and tampering is more of a possibility.
Finally, this vaccine is probably made with Americans in mind, not Asians or other slender people. So, vaccine dose may be a factor & we’re going to discuss that a little later.
Oh, really. Can you say more about how our national background might be a factor?
Well, I’m about 5’ 5” and weigh around 100 pounds myself, so, I probably would not be a typical subject in these studies. Also, I’m chronically anemic due to a genetic condition called Thalassemia that is prevalent among Greeks – this is probably going to be relevant to my overall antibody response.
3. What about the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine?
So, on the plus side, this seems to be more of a traditional viral-vector vaccine (a harmless virus carrying bits or all of the SARSCoV2 virus)
The trial was halted at one point due to neurological symptoms in one subject including spinal inflammation (however, they never really made it clear whether it was a test subject, who was given the vaccine, or a control subject, who was not)
Then, there were two different results with two different doses of the vaccine –
1. 62% effective in subjects who received two full doses of the vaccine
2. 90% effective in subjects who received a half first dose and a full second dose
They must solve this mystery because in science it’s important to know exactly why something works to ensure reproducibility. I would like to know if there were any side-effects in the first group that received two full doses, though, because this trial has shone a light on the whole issue of dose.
4. Finally, in our series ... what are your thoughts on the Russian/Sputnik vaccine?
The Russian vaccine is a very traditional adenovirus vaccine which is a vector that has been in use for generations.
Because this was the first vaccine to be produced, they have had a head start on their vaccination program and therefore must have collected a good deal of data on its effectiveness (claiming 95%) and side-effects (something that most manufacturers are being less than forthcoming about).
It is the most affordable vaccine which is good news for lower income countries.
But, what about dose? (This is a potential issue, especially, if the vaccine contains the complete SARSCoV2 genetic material)
5. Do you have anything else to add about the vaccines? It seems the more we learn about Covid19 and about the vaccines, the more factors there are to consider than even what we are told in the news reports heralding the arrival of the vaccines…..
Yes, in my opinion, a very important point to consider is vaccine dose. As we know, viral particle dose is a key determinant of COVID-19 severity. Therefore, it is quite possible that if a 100 pound person gets the same dose as a 300 pound person, the former could end up seriously ill due to an overdose of viral proteins. I propose that there should be at least three different doses of the vaccine – one for people 100 pounds and less; one for people 200 pounds and less; and, one for people 300 pounds and less.
6. Dr. Moondust, thank you for this enlightening conversation. Do you have any final observations?
Well, the rather important question that nobody seems to be asking is how long does immunity last after getting these vaccines? How often does one have to get it? (Will it be annual, semi-annual, tri-annual?) None of the companies have addressed this issue except Moderna with preliminary data.
That brings us round to the topic of supplements – don’t stop your supplements even if you get a vaccine – C, D, and Zn. Nobody seems to know the lag period between getting the vaccine and when its effectiveness ceases so there may be an interval where you’re not protected between vaccines.
Can you briefly remind us of what is special about your SPP formulation?
It’s a good source of Zn, which can block viral replication.
If you’re already taking a zinc supplement, then, SPP should be used specifically on your face and under your mask every time you go out in public places.
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