December 6th, 2022

Started in February 2020, the SAJO blog is providing a thread through the pandemic with up-to-date information to present pandemics and infectious diseases.

Note: The series “Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic” will be continued soon.

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Dear readers,

Since this week, Germany is ranked 7th in the international database of new SARS-CoV-2 infection numbers. We still see more than 100 – 150 deaths by COVID-19 each day. The high death rate is an indicator that only a part of actual infections is being recorded.

What makes this virus that powerful? There is one simple answer: It’s evolution. What does evolution mean?

Evolution is the result of two factors: Mutation and selection. In simple terms, an organism’s DNA (its genome) is being altered with each generation. This regularly occurs through tiny mutations, i.e. the DNA is changed in one place. Should this change result in a reproductive advantage, this mutation will outcompete others with time. In humans, this process is slow, since the average generation time is around 30 years. SARS-CoV-2, just like many other viruses, has a much shorter generation time. Over 30 years, a virus will run through more than 100,000 generations!

This is just one aspect. The human genome consists of about 3,000,000,000 base pairs (“letters”). Of these, less than 100 are being changed with each generation, since there are mechanisms in place that correct mutations. Such mechanisms largely are missing in viruses. Hence their genomes are changed much more severely in each generation. And there is more: One viral particle may produce thousands of progeny viruses. Within mere hours. Thus, a viral genome may adjust to new conditions very easily. This we could observe with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant last years, and even more so with Omicron, that seemingly came out of nowhere. No-one can predict what other successful variant evolution will procure. Just one thing is sure: It will already be circulating somewhere in this world.

Mankind is also making use of evolution, when breeding animals and plants. Nature is bringing mutations, mankind is choosing variants, selecting. Simple grass with time changed to crops. Grass has a 1-year generation time. After several thousand years (generations) several crops emerged, such as rice, corn, barley, and others, without which 8 billion people could not be fed today.

In her youth, Sabine experienced the emergence of black rust in Bavarian barley fields. Black rust is a fungal disease, originating in the Mediterranean. Climate change led to its expansion to the North in the 1980s already. Crops, and especially barley have been bred to obtain resistance against black rust. Consequently, farmers no longer had losses. This is evolution, of plants and their pathogens.

Now back to SARS-CoV-2. The virus is changing that rapidly, that every new variant, having a growth advantage, is coming with a higher pathogenic potential. Omicron is less deadly than previous variants, but its infectivity is much higher, even in the outdoors. This, several dozen walkers found out the hard way in China recently.

In September 2022 already, Science reported new omicron subvariants that have the potential to overcome immunity even better.

The new vaccines by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna aiming at omicron variants do provide a certain level of protection from severe or deadly disease. But the protective time after vaccination will be shorter, and new variants will outcompete the previous ones. Therefore it is important that we at SAJO can develop new next generation drugs and that you support us and provide us with contacts. In the end, the people will benefit. This kind of work is fun to us. It is great to help build a healthy future. Science is captivating. We had posted about that before.

Unfortunately, our politicians are not heeding the advice of science. This is to the disadvantage of our society. This we had to say in clear speech. And this is independent of any political party.

Our country is flying blindly through this pandemic. There is no more sequencing, we do not know what variants are circulating. All information given is based on speculation. A complete failure of the authorities. Our politicians deserve an E (worst score) for their work all around a pandemic. The daily number of victims are telling. 100 to 150 unnecessary deaths per day are a shame.

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Now state governments have dropped the mask mandate. We are just waiting to be bullied for wearing a mask. Political decisions are not made based on medical and scientific facts, no matter if such studies are paid by tax payers. In the end, scientific funding is a waste of money handled this way.

Don’t underestimate the power of evolution. Evolution is going on, every day, every minute, every second. Let’s see what awaits us this winter.

Expect not to hear about a lot of things. Investigative journalism is no longer. For this we cannot blame politicians, it is us readers and consumers. “Feel-good” is the slogan of the time.

Be smart and protect yourselves, the virus is still circulating. In closed spaces wear an N95 mask.

Get an omicron booster shot and get a flu shot as well. N95 masks also protect from the flu. Without masks, there will be a lot of infections resulting in numerous deaths this winter. Other pathogens are circulating as well. Respiratory syncytial virus, a deadly pathogen for newborns and the elderly, is raging at the moment as are enteroviruses and rhinoviruses. One thing these pathogens have in common is the fact that infection can be prevented by N95 masks.

A real investment into an office building would be a modern air-conditioning system with HEPA filters, providing protection from infections. We offer consulting with our partners. Such an investment does not just show the company cares for its employees, but it will pay off in the long run due to a reduced rate of sick leave.

Two weeks ago, we received our flu shots, and last week we got the new vaccine by BioNTech/Pfizer against the omicron variants BA4 and BA5. With these we are facing the winter season well protected. Nevertheless, we are donning N95 masks when indoors with others. Our health and our minds are our capital, which we will not risk. Join us and protect yourselves.

It is fine to party with guests after a negative test. Then, partying is fun, and the bad feeling is gone. To get tested ahead of an event is a matter of responsibility and personal hygiene. This should be part of a gathering with friends and family, just as taking a shower.

On Mondays, check the newest numbers by the Johns-Hopkins-University

Stay informed. In mid-December we’ll be back with our annual holiday post. Until then, enjoy the holiday season.

Yours, Joerg and Sabine

Dr. Sabine Breun and Dr. Joerg Baumann, both PhDs, virologists, immunologists, molecular biologists and founders of SAJO. Both are specialized in infectious diseases. Since the 90s, Dr. Baumann has been working on zoonoses and how pathogens overcome the species barrier. Since 2000, Dr. Breun works on the interaction of viruses with the immune system. Both work as team. SAJO enables new antivirals – antivirals of the next generation to fight pandemics.
During their scientific carreers, both performed scientific work for 5 years at the National Cancer Institute in a US elite program on competitive US scholarships.

SAJO – for a healthy and better future!

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.

This is post No. 238. To our delight our blog is receiving a lot of acceptance, we love to share our know-how and expertise. 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.)

The SAJO high technology (the heart of SAJO) allows for the identification and isolation of next generation antiviral and antibacterial components for the development of new drugs, for prevention or therapy. This is what we do best – these are our USP and our strength.

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