A President’s Words Carry Weight

Trump’s Thursday, 23 April 2020, press conference, clip:

Trump (29:46)
A question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposedly we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting, right? And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful. Steve, please.

The following day:
A Spike In New Yorkers Ingesting Household Cleaners Following Trump’s Controversial Coronavirus Comments

The Poison Control Center, a subagency of the city’s Health Department, managed a total of 30 cases of possible exposure to disinfectants between 9 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday, a spokesman said.

the Poison Control Center only handled 13 similar cases in the same 18-hour period last year.

Moreover, out of the cases reported between Thursday and Friday, nine were specifically about possible exposure to Lysol. Ten were in regard to bleach and 11 about household cleaners in general, the spokesman said.

In last year’s 18-hour period, there were no cases reported about Lysol exposure and only two were specifically in regard to bleach, the data shows.

“Cashiers And Shelf-Stockers And Delivery-Truck Drivers Aren’t Heroes. They’re Victims.”

Calling Me a Hero Only Makes You Feel Better
I work in a grocery store. All this grandiose praise rings insincere.
Karleigh Frisbie Brogan, The Atlantic, 18 April 2020

Cashiers and shelf-stockers and delivery-truck drivers aren’t heroes. They’re victims. To call them heroes is to justify their exploitation.

Lewis Thomas: “I Am Considerably Less Intelligent Than My Liver”

I am in awe of the immune system. The more I read, the less I understand. And yet it works. It works really well. It’s almost as if it has an intelligence of its own.

Which reminded me of this passage in Lewis Thomas’* book, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974). (Download a copy for free at the Internet Archive.)

Just replace “liver” with “immune system” or really any organ!

If I were informed tomorrow that I was in direct communication with my liver, and could take over now, I would become deeply depressed. Nothing would save me and my liver, if I were in charge. For I am, to face the facts squarely, considerably less intelligent than my liver. I am, moreover, constitutionally unable to make hepatic decisions, and I prefer not be obliged to, ever. I would not be able to think of the first thing to do.

Lewis Thomas

* Lewis Thomas was a physician, immunology researcher, dean, poet, etymologist, and essayist. … He became Dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. His formative years as an independent medical researcher were at Tulane University School of Medicine.

He was invited to write regular essays in the New England Journal of Medicine. One collection of those essays, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), won annual National Book Awards in two categories, Arts and Letters and The Sciences (both awards were split). He also won a Christopher Award for that book.

Great Overview Of COVID-19 By Dr. Greger

Great overview of COVID-19 by Dr. Greger. Well cited. While he promotes plant-based eating, his synopsis here wasn’t too focused on diet, which I appreciated.

Takeaways from My Webinar on COVID-19, Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, Nutrition Facts, 16 April 2020

I liked this section:

How to Treat COVID-19

  • Presently, there is no specific proven therapy for COVID-19.
  • Although there are more than 400 clinical treatment trials underway, we should not expect an effective antiviral drug or vaccine anytime soon.
  • I support commonsense advice to stay healthy during the crisis, as recommended by trusted authorities such as the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and the World Health Organization, including getting sufficient sleep (seven to nine hours), reducing stress, keeping active, staying connected (remotely) to friends and family, and eating healthfully (a diet centered around whole plant foods).
  • Given our near-total ignorance of the immunological aspects of COVID-19, I will not jump on the snake-oily spamwagon to promote foods to boost immunity. We just don’t know if enhancing specific arms of the immune system could make things even worse.
  • There is an assumption that seniors are more susceptible to serious COVID-19 courses due to their waning, aging immune systems, but that may not be correct. Similarly, though young children, with their relatively immature immune systems, typically suffer disproportionally from infections such as the flu, that doesn’t appear to be with the case with COVID-19 (or SARS or MERS). Likewise, immunosuppressed patients may not be at greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19, although they normally are from respiratory viruses.
  • Our own immune response may be the primary driver of damage to the lungs during coronavirus infection—somewhat akin to an autoimmune reaction where the body over-reacts and the lungs get caught in the crossfire as the coronavirus is attacked.

I don’t like the phrase “boost immunity” in this infographic. What does that mean? As Greger says, “boosting” or “enhancing a specific arm of the immune system” may even be counterproductive. All we’re doing by staying healthy is nurturing and protecting a (complex!) immune system we already possess.

Coronavirus Responsible For COVID-19 Found To Infect T-Lymphocytes, Not Unlike HIV

T Lymphocytes (T cells) attack harmful cells, such as cancers. Photo: Shutterstock

A news summary:

Coronavirus Could Attack Immune System Like HIV By Targeting Protective Cells, Warn Scientists, South China Morning Post, 12 April 2020

Researchers in China and the US find that the virus that causes Covid-19 can destroy the T cells that are supposed to protect the body from harmful invaders.
One doctor said concern is growing in medical circles that effect could be similar to HIV.

Here’s the study:

SARS-CoV-2 Infects T Lymphocytes Through Its Spike Protein-Mediated Membrane Fusion, Nature: Cellular and Molecular Immunology, 7 April 2020

Based on the results of pseudovirus and live virus infection, here we proved that:
(1) SARS-CoV-2 could infect T cells
(2) SARS-CoV-2 infected T cells through receptor-dependent, S protein-mediated membrane fusion

I wonder if this is why some people have been testing positive for COVID-19 a second time (apart from testing inaccuracies)?

Immune Enhancement: One Reason Why Vaccine Development Takes So Long

A researcher works on the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus. Photo: AFP and South China Morning Post

This article discusses “immune enhancement”:

News Feature: Avoiding Pitfalls In The Pursuit Of A Covid-19 Vaccine, PNAS, 14 April 2020

As they race to devise a vaccine, researchers are trying to ensure that their candidates don’t spur a counterproductive, even dangerous, immune system reaction known as immune enhancement.

Researchers need to understand in particular whether the vaccine causes the same types of immune system malfunctions that have been observed in past vaccine development. Since the 1960s, tests of vaccine candidates for diseases such as dengue, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have shown a paradoxical phenomenon: Some animals or people who received the vaccine and were later exposed to the virus developed more severe disease than those who had not been vaccinated (1).

No matter how urgent it is to get a vaccine out, it has to be tested for safety and of course effectiveness … on animals, on healthy humans, and on humans who aren’t so healthy, which includes many older adults, a group at highest risk for dying from COVID-19. Takes time.

Another Truth Void:

President Trump on 2 March 2020: Pharmaceutical companies are going “to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon.”

The Atlantic: The president’s own experts told him during a White House meeting with pharmaceutical leaders earlier that same day that a vaccine could take a year to 18 months to develop. In response, he said he would prefer if it took only a few months. He later claimed, at a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, that a vaccine would be ready “soon.”
All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus, The Atlantic, 9 April 2020

Vegans May Benefit From Complementing Proteins

Are we back to complementing proteins?

Bioavailable Methionine Assessed Using the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Method Is Greater When Cooked Chickpeas and Steamed Rice Are Combined in Healthy Young Men, The Journal of Nutrition, 9 April 2020

When chickpeas are the main protein source in the diet of young adult men, the combination of rice and chickpeas in a 3:1 ratio is recommended to improve dietary protein quality.

The idea of combining foods that contain complementary amino acids was promulgated by Frances Moore Lappé in her 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet. It has since been challenged. Lappé herself retracts the notion in her later editions.

But …

While it’s true that all the essential amino acids exist in plant foods – you don’t need to eat animal foods to get them* – that doesn’t take into account absorption. This study took that into account.

If you’re going to eat rice and you’re going to eat beans it would not be a bad idea to get them into your stomach around the same time.

* You do need to eat sufficient calories, keeping in mind that fruit is a poor source of protein.