A new theory

It’s clear that pretty much everyone who died from the Flu Manchu had a serious underlying condition. Those who the news claimed had no other illness all later turned out to have an undiagnosed illness. It is indeed possible to have heart problems or diabetes or many other things without realising it. Naturally, if it’s severe you’ll notice it but many conditions can be a long way down the road of developing before they really hit you.

Several things seemed strange though. Why is a respiratory virus causing multiple organ failure? Why are those with diabetes getting hit really hard? Why does blood type seem to matter? Why is it acting like a septicaemia when it’s really a kind of flu? Why on Earth would an anti-malaria drug work?

It has absolutely devastated the lungs of those it has killed. Not just normal pneumonia, it’s shredded the lungs entirely. How can it go so much further than even swine flu or SARS?

Well, this might help explain it. I haven’t yet found the original studies he refers to, there are no references on the article and it is on a site that does not fact-check what people put on there so I’m going to call it a hypothesis. One that really should be tested, but it’s certainly plausible.

Basically, it says that the virus proteins mess up haemoglobin and release the iron from them. This isn’t just iron, it’s a positively charged ion, a very dangerous thing to have in your body in large amounts. However, it has to be there because that’s how haemoglobin transports oxygen. So, the iron is encased in the haemoglobin molecule in such a way that it can catch oxygen but cannot go all free-radical on the rest of your body.

Some of the virus surface proteins react with haemoglobin and break it so the reactive iron atom is released. In amounts too large for the body’s defences to deal with. It isn’t part of the virus’ ‘plan’, it’s not useful to the virus, it appears to be accidental.

This reactive iron is what wrecks the lungs. Then you also have red blood cells that can’t carry oxygen no matter how well ventilated you are. Multiple organ failure is then inevitable. Also, any blood/circulation-linked underlying condition is only going to make it worse.

There is no malaria vaccine. If you are travelling to a malaria-risk country, you take the malaria tablets daily for a month before you go, while you’re there, and for a couple of weeks when you get back. It does not produce antibodies, it blocks the parasite’s access to haemoglobin. This is not a permanent solution, you have to build it up and keep topping it up until the risk has passed.

Since it blocks access to haemoglobin, it seems it does the same to the virus proteins.

As for the blood type, well, it seems malaria has the same response as the virus. Blood group O is safest, group A is most at risk. There has not been time to sequence the virus proteins, maybe nobody has thought to do that yet, but if they are indeed the RIFIN proteins from malaria then this virus will look very much engineered. It would be one coincidence too many.

The first article linked to does point out that the reason so many news outlets and lefties want to disparage the hydroxychloroquine treatment is because Trump said it would work. Even though nobody on the planet believes he worked it out himself. I can believe that because the world, especially politics, really has become that petty. There are also deeper reasons involving (as usual) money and control.

Pharmers are working on a vaccine, the Billy Gates Gruff has seen this as an opportunity for his long-drooled-over ‘chip everyone’ scheme, the communists see it as an opportunity to end capitalism, the Kissinger (yes, he’s still alive!) has already pushed for a one world government to deal with it, Piers ‘I’ll scweam and scweam until I’m thick’ Morgan wants to bring back every failed Prime Monster, the Greens want to install this, the tobacco controllers want to take the opportunity to ban vaping and smoking (even though it has been shown that smoking/vaping has no effect on catching or getting sick from this virus) and the Temperance Loonies are trying to use it to ban alcohol.

If there is a cheap, simple cure for this virus, all of that and more falls apart. So there is a hell of a lot of resistance to this cure.

Doctors, meanwhile, are saying it works. I’m going with the doctors.

More on survival.

Well. Boris has the virus and seems to be in a pretty bad way. Let’s hope he survives this because, even if you hate him, he’s human. Also he didn’t want to impose the lockdown and if he’s gone, his replacement might well revel in it. Boris would let everyone out a lot sooner than some of his potential replacements. Really, even if you hate the Tories, this is one man and he’s not Satan – but Satan might be waiting in the wings.

So what can you do? More and more we are hearing that we should be wearing face masks. Where to get them? Well… you can’t. I have modified some respirators and ex-army gas masks I have lying around but if you’re not an ex-microbiologist or a packrat with a massive junk collection you probably don’t have any. There are many clips of people folding fabric into masks. They won’t protect you very much but if you are infected (and you might not know it), they will attenuate the effects of a cough or sneeze so you won’t spread it far. Two metres (or two yards six inches for us old Philistines who refuse to believe Imperial units are no more) is plenty far enough away if your cough is masked.

There is an option to fold a couple of extra layers in there. A layer of any cloth soaked in 30% salt solution with a tiny drop of detergent and dried, even if you can’t get the right microfibre, will help. Also a strip cut from one of the fancy HEPA hoover bags. The paper ones are better than nothing but the HEPA ones are best. That’s the white fabric ones. It’s almost, but not quite, as good as N95 masks.

Remember to stitch or staple a pleat either side of your nose so it seals well. Also, wear wrap-around safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Medication. Hydroxychloroquine seems to be working in combination with an antibiotic and zinc. You’ll have problems getting hydroxychloroquine now, but you don’t really need it unless you are hospitalised anyway. Dr. Faust, Donnie Trumpton’s doctor guy, the Pharmers and the Billy Gates Gruff are going all out to stop this treament but that’s because it’s a cheap medication. You can’t sell expensive drugs or vaccines to a population who have a cheap quick fix. Also, Billy Gates Gruff won’t get to realise his dream of microchipping everyone on the planet. Listen to the frontline doctors. They are saying it’s working. Don’t listen to the buggers trying to make money out of this.

Vitamins C and D are a good thing to have anyway. Especially here in Scotland, where sunbathing really isn’t going to be viable for a few more months and citrus fruit just doesn’t grow. They aren’t a cure, they are vitamins that help your body fight off infections. So get some into you.

We take vitamin D here because there’s not much sunlight in Scotland over winter and when there is, it’s too damn cold to go out there. Also, I’m pretty much nocturnal anyway…

Some people don’t like oranges, a few are actually allergic to the point where too many oranges can cause a blowout down below. Not the most enjoyable of experiences. However, both D and C are available in pill form – I have pleasant memories of Haliborange tablets when I was sick as a child. Oh, and vitamin B6 (or just simple B complex mixtures) can be good to have too.

You won’t get the antibiotic off-prescription either, but like hydroxychloroquine, you don’t need it unless you get sick enough to be hospitalised. It does have a purpose and no, antibiotics don’t work on viruses. They prevent secondary bacterial infections. See, once the virus has minced your throat and your immune system is knackered from dealing with it, that’s the ideal time for a bacterial infection to take root and make things a hell of a lot worse. That’s what the antibiotic is for.

Zinc has long been known to help in wound healing. Zinc oxide cream is a common topical application for cuts. Do not eat it. That will just make you shit through every orifice. Zinc also helps reduce inflammation and can disrupt the cytokine storm this virus can cause in severe cases. This is available as zinc sulphate tablets but don’t take them forever. They can cause anaemia in long term use. Get some and start taking them (one a day) at the first onset of symptoms. Stop when you get better.

With all these supplements, taking more than recommended is not a good idea. Also if you are on any other medication, check with your doctor before adding to it. Taking too much can land you in other problems than the virus so don’t do it. Also, if you already have anaemia, talk to your doctor before taking zinc. You might be best to avoid supplements until you actually show symptoms but dietary sources of these vitamins/minerals are available. Look out for them.

This is a particularly vicious virus but even so, it has been blown into something even bigger by those who stand to make a lot of money from it. Listen to frontline medics, not ‘experts’ who are likely to get very rich out of vaccine sales. If it really is cured by these simple, cheap medications then the vaccine isn’t needed – and that scares the hell out of them.

So many groups are trying to use this to their advantage now. Even if you are so far to the Left you make Stalin raise his eyebrows, you know, deep down, Boris is your best chance of getting out of this with your freedoms intact. Stop wishing him dead.

His replacement could be a hell of a lot worse.

Going Viral… it’s what they do

So, this virus is still pissing everyone off. If only we could make tiny hammers to smash the little buggers, eh?

Right, so what do we actually know? Not much, as it goes. It’s a new one, it’ll take a long time to figure out what it can and cannot do and by then, one or other of us will be dead. Of course, if the virus kills us, it’s dead too. It cannot reproduce without a host.

It is the way of viruses to gradually mutate into less deadly versions. If they don’t, if they wipe out their host species, they die too. There are viruses that have perfected this. They are in us all now, reproducing slowly, doing no real harm, parasitising with nobody noticing. That takes a long time but I suspect they all get there in the end.

It’s the boisterous new kid on the block that always causes most damage. The thug virus, in Burberry and drugged to the eyes, not yet realising it depends for its very existence on those it is trying to kill. It will calm down, eventually, but it will kill a lot of people before it does.

Okay, what do we have? Most of it is unproven and some of it is just hearsay but we have to go with what we have for now.

First, it is not a hoax. Some are still saying this. I have noticed though, that a couple of days ago Twitter was full of sneering ‘Does anyone know anyone who has even had this virus?’ and today it’s full of ‘family member dead or on a ventilator’ tweets. It has changed very quickly. Not surprising since the death toll is doubling every three days.

Some of them are fake. Clearly. But some of them are real. I now personally know a few people who have tested positive.

Second, testing. There are howls to test everyone, so all those testing negative can get back to work. Testing does not confer immunity. If you test negative it merely shows that you haven’t caught it yet. You could catch it between the time of the test and getting the result. It means nothing. There is an antibody test in development that will show if you had it and have developed immunity but even when it’s widely available, it takes 28 days after infection before it can be deemed accurate. I hope you like your living room wallpaper, you’re going to be staring at it for a while yet.

Third, who is most at risk? The elderly, obviously. Those with underlying conditions whether or not they have been diagnosed. This is important. There have been many, many cases in the past of apparently fit and healthy people in their twenties suddenly dropping dead from a heart or other problem nobody even suspected they had. It happens. It’s not nice but it does happen. Just because you feel fine, live the Health Dream and have a body that would make Charles Atlas green does not mean you are safe. Do not chance it.

Some are more at risk than others. It seems the virus kills more men than women. It seems to target blood group A and Rhesus negative particularly. It seems to not like smokers so much. All this is connected with cell surface antigens that the virus uses for attachment and I’m not getting into a lecture now. I haven’t seen absolute proof of any of these things (there hasn’t been enough time for research) so it’s all speculation or preliminary studies at this point.

Fourth, is it a bioweapon? I don’t know. It might be but it doesn’t need to be. Nasty new viruses can arise by pure chance. This one might have been created by a lab or by sheer bad luck. There are very few genes in a virus so adding or taking away one makes a hell of a difference to what it does. A simple transcription error in a SARS virus could have made this one.

Bioweapons are really no use in the modern world unless you want to attack the entire world. Lobbing plague infested corpses into beseiged castles in the 14th century, fine. It’s contained. Now, you could let loose a bioweapon in, say, London, and it will cover the whole damn planet in 24 hours. You cannot contain it. No matter where in the world you let out your bioweapon, it is coming home and might get home before you do. So I don’t think it was a deliberate bioweapon attack. Accidental release, maybe.

Although the Billy Gates Gruff was suspiciously fast at bringing in his vaccine with free bonus microchip. So I’ll leave the bioweapon thing open for now. That guy is the one who wanted to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to zero. He is a dangerous idiot.

Fifth, is it really more dangerous than the flu? After all, more people die of the flu than from this. Well, it’s not about the death rate. It’s the infection rate. With flu, you get infected, 2 or 3 days later you’re in bed wishing for Death’s release. A couple of weeks later you’re okay, you might be infectious for a day or two after but you won’t cause too many new cases.

With this one, you can be infectious for two weeks before you even know you have it. There is some evidence you can still be infectious for a while after recovery. The kill rate isn’t that high but the infection method means you could see a massive spike in cases all at once. ‘Only’ 20% need hospital treatment but unlike those flu cases, the hospital ones aren’t spread out over months. The cases could spike over days. And then you have the Italy situation where doctors have to choose who gets the ventilator.

It does not kill more than the flu. What it can do is cause a spike in cases over days rather than months, and then people die because they can’t get treatment. Not just from the virus, from everything else too, because the hospitals are overloaded. This new virus has not made all the other diseases go away, you know.

Finally, is it all the government’s fault? What do you want, your government to seal all borders, allow nobody in or out, and keep you under home arrest 24/7? No, it is not the government’s fault. Look at the faces of those in government now. They are knackered. Boris looks like he should be home in bed with a hot water bottle and he is still working. Making political mileage out of this is just sick.

No government on the planet could have foreseen this, no government could possibly have been ready, no politician anywhere understands how a virus works and sure, they have scientific advisers but no scientist has ever seen this virus before. Vaccines and treatments are not something we scientists pull out of our arse on command, you know. It took me three years to find a treatment for Clostridium difficile and prove that it worked. That bacterium has been causing problems for a very long time. Now you want a cure for a brand new virus in days? 14 days incubation and spread before symptoms? Nobody has seen that before and nobody has a plan in place to deal with it. Why would they? It has only just come into existence.

Instead of attacking health workers and pharmacists, instead of demanding the government do something about a thing nobody has experienced before, why not try looking after yourselves for once?

If this thing keeps going, sooner or later you’ll have no choice.

Antismokers want you dead

Whether you smoke or not.

Philip Morris, the baccy sellers (and lately iQOS sellers too) have donated a load of respirators to a Greek hospital. The Greek health minister has thanked them for this. The antismoker response?

How dare they! How can the Greek hospitals accept life saving equipment from the Tobacco Monsters! They must be taken outside and burned. Burned, I say! Inhale all that burning plastic, heretics, let it cleanse you of the burning Leaf of Satan!

Well, the Antismokers have pointed out that it is Against Their Law to let tobacco companies save lives…

Tobacco companies only kill people. Only the Temple of Tobacco Control can save you. You don’t need respirators, you need Salvation. In the form of Pharma products, not those awful independent vape sellers and especially not in harm-reduction made by the Tobacco Demons! They don’t give Tobacco Control any money so they must be evil.

How the tables have turned, eh? Tobacco Control is now actively trying to kill people while tobacco companies are trying to save them. The true face of the antismokers is now laid bare for all to see. They were never trying to save you. They were only ever trying to control you. Whether you smoke or not.

The tobacco companies made no attempt to publicise this donation. They didn’t stamp the respirators with tobacco ads nor fit them with cigarette dispensers. Which is disappointing, really. They might as well have done exactly that. The only ones publicising this are the antismokers.

They cannot understand how this makes them look, you know. Trying to stop a donation of respirators in a time of a pandemic of respiratory disease. They’d have been burning Fleming’s lab for discovering penicillin if he was smoking while he did it. They care nothing for you, whether you smoke or not. They care about control and money. Nothing else.

This pandemic is turning into a good thing. It’s showing up an awful lot of awful people for what they really are.

There wil be no coming back from this.

Anthology 11

Should I call it ‘Legiron’s 11’ I wonder? Or maybe just ‘Quarantine’. I’m really just getting into the editing after the events of the past month or so. Just to add to the mix, my uncle (Dad’s brother) has been diagnosed with cancer. It hasn’t spread, so normally it could be excised, but it’s a big operation and the risk of catching the Coronavirus in hospital is pretty high. So he has to endure radiotherapy.

I have to get back to real life. We’re going to be locked down until the end of April at least. Lifting the restrictions too soon will just make the thing surge again. I’m still seeing ‘oh but the flu kills more people’ coming up online and yes, it (so far) does. But it is not about the kill rate.

I don’t know if this is an escaped bioweapon, but if it is, it’s a good one. The kill rate is just enough to be scary, but its real damage is to infrastructure. You can be spreading it for up to 14 days before you know you have it. Everyone you infect will do the same. Unlike flu, which does hospitalise and kill a lot of people over a period of months, this one can lead to a massive surge in hospitalisations in a week. So businesses are shut down and everyone is scared of each other. People are afraid to leave their homes. Economies collapse, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. It’s the perfect Blind Assassin.

It still could have arisen by chance, but I think China is going to suffer for this either way.

My uncle cannot now get that surgery because of the virus. Many, many others cannot get treatment for a wide range of other illnesses because of the virus. All GP surgeries are closed here, this is no time to get sick with anything at all. You will not be listed as being killed by the virus but you may well die as a result of its existence.

Forget the bloody kill rate of the virus. It is much more serious than just some body bag numbers. If it spikes like in Italy, you won’t get treatment for anything at all because if you have an underlying condition this thing could finish you off.

Take it seriously. It is not a hoax. It is not a game. It is not, in itself, a power grab although every vested interest out there is using it to try for one. It probably won’t kill you. 80% of cases don’t even need to go to hospital. But if you’re involved in an accident or have a stroke or heart attack, the fast response you need is not going to be available – and that may very well kill you.

But back to the point. I am getting myself motivated again. The official closing date for Anthology 11 is Tuesday and I have enough stories in to make it worthwhile – and there is still time for more. I will have to check with authors that I have received everything they sent and haven’t lost anything because of the chaos in February and March. Publication is still set for mid April.

I have also reduced the price of all 10 anthologies to 99p/99 cents. Just waiting for Amazon to update them all before spreading the word. Parity is because the pound is low against the dollar and the remaining difference is removed because the UK has a tax on eBooks while the USA doesn’t. Non-US prices might change, but 99-cents is the base price. They will stay that way throughout lockdown.

I will price the next one the same, even though at £12 per story it’s going to leave quite a hole to fill. There’s no point trying to break even on these when everyone has all the time in the world to read books but no money to buy them. If it gets the Leg Iron Books site noticed and sells some of the other authors’ books too, it’s worth it.

There is, still, the omnibus edition of last year’s anthologies. I’ll still do it but while the originals are 99p it really doesn’t make much difference. So that’s not a priority.

I’m considering doing the same for my own eBooks. It won’t make me any money but it might get the books noticed. If any of the other authors are reading, would you consider it too? I’m not dropping any prices without author consent.

I cannot cut prices on print books. Those are already to the bone. I can cut them on eBooks but it does mean pennies per eBook for any author who agrees to it. It would be until the end of lockdown, likely to be until the summer the way things are looking. I will contact all the authors who don’t respond here over the next week and see how they feel about it.

Back to work. It’s not like I can do much else, is it?

Final days

The coroner has at last (March 6th) signed the forms that release my father to the undertaker. My father died instantly of a pulmonary embolism on February 14th, the death certificate finally became available to my mother on March 4th and the undertaker had still heard nothing. After, I suspect, several angry phone calls, the coroner remembered to do his job and signed the release forms.

So, there is no real prospect of an open casket funeral because the undertaker has not been able to embalm him. My mother wanted to say one last goodbye, but thanks to the utter ineptitude of the South Wales coroner, that is unlikely to be possible. The entire family is now at the point where if this coroner shows his face he’s really not likely to get to keep it. Don’t show up to apologise, Coroner. No apology can or will be accepted. Just fuck off.

This is not an exceptional case. More and more are coming forward from the area covered by this coroner’s office. The local MP will be getting letters, as will whoever is medically in charge of that shitshow.

I wonder if he would dare do this to a Muslim family? Islam requires the time between death and internment to be no more than three days. This coroner thinks nothing of taking three weeks or more to sign a damn form. If they jihaded him, they’d have the full support of me and my entire family. Heck, we’d give them alibis.

I have been uncommunicative for a while because of this. We cannot move on until it is over. My mother could not arrange bank accounts, insurances, property, pensions, council tax, anything at all without the death certificate so we have all been in limbo until the coroner finally managed to shift his arse. Fortunately my brother has been on hand to help our mother and CStM and I will be there in a couple of days for the funeral.

And don’t blame this on ‘Tory cuts’. This is NHS Wales. It’s Labour controlled. God help you all in Wales if (when) coronavirus hits. It has an incubation period of at least two weeks and it’ll be three weeks before you know if someone died of it. NHS Wales will go under with cases in a month, all because the coroner just does not care.

The remainers and the climate cult have dropped their masks now, gleefully delighting in hte deaths of ‘old Brexiteers’ and ‘old Climate Heretics’ and not realising that coronavirus does not care how you vote, nor does it care for your religion. I actually don’t know how my father voted on Brexit, nor his opinions on climate change. We didn’t discuss politics. I don’t know how any of my family voted on anything, nor how they feel about climate change, for that matter. In my family, family is first. We do not split over trivia.

I think they will listen to me over the new coronavirus, since I’m the only one with a doctorate in microbiology. So I will be advising on this one. It’s not ‘flu. That ‘it’s only flu’ mindset is what makes those required to self-quarantine think ‘It’s been three days, I’m fine, I’ll go to that concert/business meeting/football match’ and spread it all around. Its principal danger is not even in its death rate, which is amateurish compared to the likes of Ebola. Its danger is in its asymptomatic spread which will lead to a total collapse of the health service. They don’t only deal with coronavirus, you know, and when hospitals are full of people on respirators, what about all the other illnesses?

As for me, I only have one gathering to attend. My father’s funeral. It will be big, there are a lot of us on all three sides of the family (long story, another time maybe) from all over the country. Infection rates are not yet at dangerous levels as far as anyone knows (although ‘confirmed cases’ are only the ones so far showing symptoms and the real current cases could well be ten times that) so I’ll risk it.

Confirmed cases are doubling every two days in the UK. Don’t imagine this one is just going to disappear. This is not the necrotising fasciitis scare that killed about eight people and caused mass panic, this one will run and run.

We’re not flying to Wales. I had already decided to drive because that gives more flexibility over coming back. If we have to stay a few more days, no problem. Just as well really since the operator of flights from Aberdeen to Cardiff was Flybe, and they’ve now gone bust. I’d have been driving anyway and with no chance of ticket refunds.

Still, the eleventh Underdog Anthology will go ahead. Submissions will close on March 31st although publication isn’t likely to be until mid to late April and you might not get an email response until mid March at the earliest. That’s not your fault, it’s the fault of an idiot in a coroner’s job.

This one will be dedicated to my father. He loved to read these books.

Virus science

Tomorrow, midnight, is the end of the quarter at Leg Iron Books and author royalties (if any) will go out on time. The anthology is going ahead too, it will close for submissions on March 31st although editing and publication will be delayed because of my father’s funeral. The delay on that has also put a complete stop on my own writing and on any kind of marketing.

I’m estimating mid to late April for publication on Anthology 11. It doesn’t affect this one too much since it’s not tied to a specific event like the Halloween and Christmas anthologies. It will be the Spring anthology, just a little later than usual. Spring is going to be delayed too, if there is any accuracy in the weather forecasts.

Anyway, science. I am/was a bacteriologist, not a virologist. I specialised in intestinal disease, pro- and prebiotics and in developing farm animal feeds mainly. Also, intestinal simulations, so I could run experiments on gut contents without animals messing it all up. So this is going to look a bit simplistic to a virologist who will have studied this in far more detail than me.

The current coronavirus is generating all kinds of conflicting reports, from ‘oh it’s just the flu’ to some serious tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theories. I read one that claimed the Spanish flu was bioengineered, some 30 years before Watson and Crick and around 70 years before DNA sequencing became a viable lab procedure. This somewhat dented the credibility of that story.

First, it is not the flu. The first round apparently has mild flu-like symptoms and will kill maybe 2% of those it infects. I have seen heartless bastards on Twitter type ‘yeah, but it’s just the elderly and the sick who die’. Will they say the same if their parents get it? Oh, and the doctor in Wuhan who died was 33 and in fine health.

The problem with this one, as compared to flu, is that it has a long incubation period where an infected person can shed the virus for around two weeks (or possibly more) without showing symptoms. Flu doesn’t do that. It also seems to have a gene or two from HIV which means it’s much more likely to infect anyone it comes in contact with.

It also appears that you don’t develop immunity, as with the common cold. You can catch it again. This means that even if someone does develop a vaccine it will be irrelevant. You simply do not develop immunity. The vaccine will achieve nothing. Or… it could make things much worse.

This one seems to do most of its killing on the second round of infection. It seems to be able to use antibody-dependent enhancement which means that the second time it infects, your immune system can’t kill it even though it’s trying to. This might or might not be the case, there is still a lot nobody really knows about this thing.

As Delphius says, it is possible that the first ‘infection’ was really normal flu or a cold, misdiagnosed. That would be understandable. The Chinese medics are overwhelmed and the authorities are dragging anyone with a temperature or a cough into the coronavirus hospitals. So, maybe they only caught the coronavirus after they arrived. The deaths could then be due to already-sick people getting stuffed in with those infected with coronavirus, and simply being overloaded with two respiratory infections at once.

So it is not flu. It has a remarkably long incubation period during which it is infectious and it is much, much easier to catch than flu. If it is true that you cannot develop immunity and that the second infection is far more serious than the first, then it really is nothing at all like flu. It’s too early to be certain on those last two points.

So, is it a bioweapon? Well it would be a really good one but only an idiot would release such a bioweapon in this age of global travel. You could get several times around the world before showing symptoms. Bioweapons are not going to stay where you put them, that should be obvious. There is a very good chance it will come back to bite you.

A bioweapon should not have a high kill rate. Your victims would simply bury or cremate the bodies and move on. A bioweapon should debilitate, while killing just enough to scare the crap out of everyone else. Loads of sick people will have exactly the effect we are seeing – medical facilities overwhelmed,infrastructure collapsing, travel and supply chains shut down…

The theory that it is a bioweapon comes from the HIV-like genes in it. Could that have been made in a lab? Oh hell yes. Building a strand of viral DNA or RNA is no problem. There isn’t much of it and we have machines that can do it overnight. It has in fact been done – poliovirus has been created in a lab. But that doesn’t mean someone made it, only that they could.

The other option – could it arise naturally? Viruses do not mate within their own species, much less with other species. They only reproduce within a host cell. They change due to mutations and errors in copying their genetic code and in assembling new viruses.

When a virus infects, it dumps its genetic code into the cell. That code, DNA or RNA, then uses the cell’s own mechanisms to read its genes and assemble new viruses. It’s like someone getting into a factory with a set of blueprints and making their own stuff using the factory’s tools.

The thing is, they are idiots. They have the blueprints to make new copies of themselves but the mechanisms they are using are not set up to make viruses. Oh each cell might make hundreds of viruses, in an infection there might be billions of new viruses produced but a lot of them will be wrong.

In the case of this Coronavirus it will create protein coats and stuff RNA into them. Some of them will be missing genes and won’t be viable. Some protein coats won’t have any RNA in them. Some will be filled with RNA from the host cell. Some will have a mix of virus and host RNA. These will attach to other cells and inject whatever they have inside, which will do… nothing, usually. This happens with all viruses. They make loads of copies in each cell but a good proportion of those copies are failures. Doesn’t matter, as long as they make enough good ones.

This has actually been considered as a treatment for some genetic ailments, such as cystic fibrosis. Create viruses containing the host’s missing gene and hope the cells take it up. I haven’t heard any more on that for years so I don’t know whether it progressed.

Right, so how does it get HIV genes?

HIV is a retrovirus. It contains RNA, but on entering a host cell it uses an enzyme that’s only found in retroviruses, called reverse transcriptase, to turn its RNA into DNA.

I should digress a little here… Living cells above viruses store their genetic information in DNA. The proteins it codes for are made on little machines called ribosomes. The cell has to get copies of the blueprints (DNA) to the machines (ribosomes) without using up its only original copy, and if it wants to make a lot of one particular protein it will need more than one copy anyway. This involves an enzyme called transcriptase which makes RNA copies of the DNA blueprint. The ribosomes use the copies, not the original, to make proteins. There’s a lot more to it but I’m retired from lecturing 😉

So, HIV gets its RNA in, turns it into DNA and now it has a master copy to make multiple RNA copies for the ribosomes.

But wait – HIV has another trick. Once it’s turned into DNA it can get into the host DNA and hide there. It can then send out a few copies as RNA to make just a few viruses at a time. The host doesn’t get sick, doesn’t even know it’s there, possibly for many years.

Now, if a coronavirus infects a cell that’s already infected with HIV, and the HIV is currently making a few copies to send out into the world, it is possible that a few of the protein coats contain full coronavirus RNA plus a few genes from the HIV RNA. Most of them will contain genes that don’t help but a few might contain the genes that give it a new site of attachment to the host cell.

Attachment is coded into the protein coat, how it sticks to cells depends on the proteins on its surface. If it picks up the right HIV genes, its next infection will produce protein coats with the HIV attachment sites built in.

It really doesn’t need more than one per billion to get this new virus going. Out of the billions sneezed out, only one single enhanced virus needs to get into a new host and the new host will sneeze out billions of the new virus. It has an advantage over its ‘parent’ in that it is now better at attaching to host cells.

Yes. It could have arisen naturally. Mutation and development of any creature is simply a numbers game and viruses produce numbers that will make an astrophysicist’s head hurt.

That just leaves the long incubation period.

The classic school-level teaching of viruses is very basic. Virus gets in, makes loads of copies of itself, bursts the host cell and infects other cells. Many viruses do this.

Not all. Some viruses ‘bud off’ their copies from the host cell so the host cell stays alive longer and therefore makes more copies of the virus before it dies. A HIV virus hiding in the host DNA will do this for years, and we already know the new coronavirus has acquired some HIV genes.

So – and this is pure theory – suppose it’s budding off viruses but not killing cells for a few weeks before it goes – ahem – viral. You don’t get sick yet. It doesn’t have all of HIV’s genes, so it can’t do this for years, only weeks. It has the gene that makes it a more efficient infector and maybe a gene or two for the slow release mechanism. That could have been engineered without much difficulty using modern equipment but it could also have arisen by pure chance.

If the chance of it arising is one in a hundred billion… that’s one infected HIV patient. Just one.

It’s not flu. This is far more dangerous.

The biggest problem is governments. Governments are fixated on money and viruses don’t care about money. Governments have no idea at all how to control a new virus, they only know about ‘the economy’. I am not talking about any particular government. I’m talking about all of them.

There is much wailing and gnashing of wallets over stock markets plummeting. The virus does not care. You can’t bribe this thing any more than you can bribe the climate. Oh they’ll try throwing money at it. It will achieve nothing at all.

If it has a reinfection level like the common cold then vaccines will not work. If second infection is really worse than first infection then vaccines will kill you. The vaccine counts as the first infection.

Nobody cares as long as they make money.

I wonder what they think they’ll spend it on?