NEWS of MAY – the month of flowers

scientific news – and further interesting topics

May 26, 2021

Started in February 2020, the SAJO blog is providing a thread through the pandemic with up-to-date information and suggestions around SARS-CoV-2.

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Dear readers,

It is no secret that, besides science, we love music and literature, and like to watch and observe nature. This includes our garden, where we can have a rest, if time allows.

In the “flower month” of May we admire the manifold blossoms of lilac, azalea, tulips, and apple trees. These wonderful blossoms not just provide food for insects, but they are also enchanting. And not least, we will enjoy the fruit the trees will yield.

Our fruit and vegetable garden is growing with each year. Especially during this pandemic gardening was a relief. We are in the outdoors, having more time, since momentarily we try and avoid meeting people. Free days, which we rarely had, we are spending in our garden. To harvest our own vegetables, salads, and fruit, and to prepare them is giving some satisfaction and peace. If you are just a little interested in how to prepare food in a good way, this is fun to do. You know what you eat.

Now, after the holiday weekend, we want to give an update on what we are concerned about:

1. In Germany, numbers of new infections are indeed declining. For this responsible are the protective measures and people’s behavior. The vaccination rate still is far too low. We are relieved and thank all those who are taking part in the fight against this pandemic. Nevertheless, the pandemic is not over yet. We are expecting an adjustment on the situation the pandemic is giving us. Such adjustments are inconvenient but necessary. The benefit of getting through the pandemic outweighs the wish to keep on going as usual at all costs. This is including the upholding of the individual protective measures to get the numbers down as much as possible this summer.

2. The Chancellor is working with the WHO for a better pandemic preparedness. There will be more pandemics in the future. It is necessary to get prepared.

  • This will need five columns:
  • a) A global early warning system,
  • b) monitoring through wide-ranged sequencing, better IT to get things automated,
  • c) platforms for swift vaccine development and production,
  • d) preproduction of next generation antivirals, antibiotics, and other medication to being able to fight pathogen X. SAJO is offering this with our cutting-edge technology. And finally, we need
  • e) to set up a globally acting taskforce after the early warning, while the outbreak is still locally confined. This also means a global pandemic plan, including all the measures needed to prevent a spread. It needs politicians who support and enforce it. A mere declaration of intent does not suffice. Once a pathogen has spread, within 24 hours the whole world is fighting – first unknowingly, then in a mode of panic.

Some news from the scientific front:

Recently, two new coronavirus species were identified in patients in Malaysia and Haiti. The origin was unknown, but sequencing of the genomes revealed that one came from dogs, the other from pigs. A few mutations were enough to give the viruses a chance to infect people. Disease symptoms were a lot milder than for SARS-CoV-2. Off course, such news needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since too much is unknown yet. For virologists, these are interesting if not all too surprising news. However, it shows just how quickly new pathogens may emerge from the animal kingdom.

Literature to Malaysia: https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciab456/6278597

Literature to Haiti: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.19.21253391v1

News about the more recent SARS-CoV-2 mutants:

The variant B.1.617 that originally was identified in India in the meantime developed several subtypes. The variant B.1.617.2 that is spreading fastest in the UK is carrying two mutations (452R and 478K) associated with better spread and a possible immune escape. Such developments will have an impact on the course of the pandemic over the coming months. The BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines still show an effect on B.1.617.2 after the second shot.

Escape variants are developing pretty fast. The virus is changing in its efficiency to spread. First scientific observations estimate a 50 % better transmission rate. This is worrisome. If the variants do have an impact on disease severity is a matter of speculation.

These are warning signs. We can only warn and try collectively to act preventively. If, in the end, some know-it-alls out of their areas of expertise cry out that a wave of infections turned out to be weaker than anticipated, we know that scientists and politicians have made a good job. Prevention and precautionary measures are the only things helping in a pandemic. Whoever does not comprehend the dynamics of this pandemic now, will probably never going to understand it. Nevertheless, the international scientific news are mixed ones.

Good news were published last week from Qatar: In Qatar, people are being vaccinated with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. First data show a good efficacy of the vaccine against all variants presently circulating in Qatar (including the notorious ‘British’ and ‘South African’ variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.351).

Again, our advice on vaccines: It takes two to three weeks AFTER the second shot to reach a protective immune response, with a healthy immune system! Older people, and those with a weakened immune system or an immune defect will not get the full protection. Here, a certain protection from severe disease is given only.

We are repeatedly receiving feedback from people whose parents or grant parents want to party one day after the first shot. This is not just stupid, but it also shows a severe lack of solidarity. Many young ones showed a great deal of solidarity with those most in danger – the older ones. Now this has to work the other way around as well.

We need to stay alert and please remember: A back to pre-pandemic life will have to wait a while longer, if you do not want to endanger yourself and your loved ones. The pandemic will be over only if it is under control globally. We are far from that. In the worst case, you will kick off the pandemic again with your next trip abroad.

Finally, at the end of this post, an initiative we are supporting: We are promoting the initiative by Ferdinand von Schirach, who is campaigning for a European Union of People. His booklet “Everyone” is a petition to extend rights in Europe. He is giving values that are essential for a functioning democracy. In 20 small pages, Schirach is pointing out necessary expansions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In its brevity and clarity this booklet is brilliant. We have signed the petition at https://you.wemove.eu/campaigns/for-new-fundamental-rights-in-europe and we are promoting it in our circle of friends and acquaintances. If you want to see the European Union to develop further, standing for the people and democracy, go and read it. Don’t forget to sign. It is an appeal to the politicians in Brussels to further develop and improve human values and their protection.

Dear readers, now you are up-to-date, not just virologically but also with some other topics we are interested in. In a democracy politics is involving everyone. We don’t dip into other areas of expertise, but we take the liberty to start discussions. We are standing for democratic values and human rights and we are standing for equal rights and for a better, fair, and healthy world. A utopia? No, a constant struggle.

Our recommendation: Please keep up the protective measures. This means: Keeping ample distance, wearing N95 masks whenever there is no chance to keep distance (in- and outdoors), and regular air exchange in rooms. In times of a pandemic, avoid travel. You never know if you don’t carry a stowaway.

Take care! Stay healthy! Don’t get infected! Don’t spread the virus! And don’t forget your humor. Humor and serenity are helping you keeping up the spirits, bringing you through your day.

Yours, Sabine and Jörg

SAJO is consulting all around infectious diseases. We are applying our know-how, that we have acquired in more than 20 years. We do what we can to fight this pandemic.

SAJO – for a healthy world and better future!

This is post No. 178. To our delight our blog is receiving a lot of acceptance, we love to share our know-how and experience. Single posts and contents are being adopted by others, also in media. We have learned how to correctly make a citation; this we would wish from others in return as well. Please feel free to share the link – it is an informative tool to fight this pandemic.

(Note: We are no members of political parties, religious congregations, or societies. We value independence, sovereignty, and freedom. With our blog we are providing purely scientific advice, without conflict of interest, altruistic. We are not being paid for it.)

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