Tag: Covid-19 (page 1 of 4)

Covid immunity and medical breakthroughs

It seems like we’re learning a lot in a very short space of time about viruses and immunity. Happily, this might lead to breakthroughs in all sorts of areas.

We tend to think of immunity as something of an absolute – either we’re immune to a virus, or we’re not. But that hides a world of complications, says Danny Altmann, professor of medicine and immunology at Imperial College London. The genes that control our immunity are among the most diverse in the human body, he says, differing hugely from person to person.


But what explains this natural immunity? The most likely theory is that these people’s immune systems have already been exposed to similar viruses, years or decades earlier. Sars-Cov-2 is one of a family of seven human coronaviruses, most of which cause the common cold. All of these viruses look fairly similar. When your T-cells learn how to fight one, they get better at fighting them all, it is thought.

Another, less well-researched answer lies in our genes. Some people might simply be born with an immunity to certain viruses, scientists suspect.


If it turns out that some people are indeed naturally immune to Covid, it’s wonderful news for them. But it might also help the rest of us, speeding up development of a pan-coronavirus vaccine capable of defeating any variant. The current generation of Covid vaccines were all designed to target the spike protein, on the virus’s outer edge. But the spike protein also changes frequently, each time the virus mutates. This means vaccines are slightly less effective against each new variant.

But natural immunity appears to work differently. In the UCL trial, researchers looked carefully at the blood of those volunteers who seemed to have pre-existing immunity to the virus. Rather than targeting the spike protein, their T-cells were targeting proteins at the centre of the virus. These proteins are much less likely to change from mutation to mutation. In fact, they tend to be found in most coronaviruses, not just Sars-Cov-2. If a vaccine could be built to target these inner proteins, it might just be able to defeat all variants – as well as a range of other coronaviruses.

Source: Why some people keep getting Covid – and others never at all | The Telegraph

Freedom for the few vs. freedom for the many

My wife and I were talking about lockdowns yesterday given that we’re due to be travelling to the Netherlands next month and they’ve announced a partial lockdown. I can’t imagine something similar would be accepted in the UK — by which I mean it would probably be difficult to enforce.

Austria are imposing a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people. This sounds like a good solution for those vaccinated, but (a) there’s non-conspiracy reasons why people aren’t vaccinated, and (b) whatever means are used to prove vaccinated will be instantly forged.

It’s a problem, for sure, how to protect the freedoms of everyone.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg at a coronavirus meeting (Credit: Dragan Tatic)

Austria will impose a nationwide lockdown for people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, becoming the first country in the world to do so, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on Friday.


“A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping (for essentials), stretching one’s legs – exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020,” Schallenberg said earlier, according to Reuters.

The lockdown for the unvaccinated has already been formally approved in Upper Austria, where restrictions have also been announced for the entire population. This includes a legal requirement to wear an FFP2 mask in all indoor public places and a ban on events for 3 weeks.


However, questions have been raised about the feasibility of a lockdown which applies to only a part of the population. “We don’t live in a police state and we can’t and don’t want to check every street corner,” Schallenberg said.

Source: Austria to declare nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people | BNO News

Psychological hibernation

I can’t really remember what life was like before having children. Becoming a parent changes you in ways you can’t describe to non-parents.

Similarly, if we tried to go back in time and explain how the pandemic has changed us, how we’re more susceptible to burnout, less up for meeting with other people, it would be almost impossible to do.

One term that might be useful, however, is ‘psychological hibernation’ — as this article explains.

Was it always like this? Can anyone actually remember what it was like before? For some reason, coming up with an answer to that question is like recalling a boring dream: the more you attempt to remember the details of life before Covid, the quicker it fades, as if it never happened at all.

In 2018, a group of psychologists in the Antarctic published a report that may help us understand our current collective exhaustion. The researchers found that the emotional capacity of people who had relocated to the end of the world had been significantly reduced in the time they had been there; participants living in the Antarctic reported feeling duller than usual and less lively. They called this condition “psychological hibernation”. And it’s something many of us will be able to relate to now.

“One of the things that we noticed throughout the pandemic is that people started to enter this phase of psychological hibernation,” said Emma Kavanagh, a psychologist specialising in how people deal with the aftermath of disasters. “Where there’s not many sounds or people or different experiences, it doesn’t require the brain to work at quite the same level. So what you find is that people felt emotionally like everything had just been dialled back. It looks a lot like burnout, symptom wise.” Kavanagh continued: “I think that happened to us all in lockdown, and we are now struggling to adapt to higher levels of stimulus.”

Source: The great Covid social burnout: why are we so exhausted? | New Statesman