Why everyone was wrong
The coronavirus is slowly retreating. What actually happened in the past few weeks? The experts have missed basic connections. The immune response against the virus is much stronger than we thought.
By Beda M Stadler
This is not an accusation, but a ruthless taking stock [of the current situation]. I could slap myself, because I looked at Sars-CoV2- way too long with panic. I am also somewhat annoyed with many of my immunology colleagues who so far have left the discussion about Covid-19 to virologist and epidemiologist. I feel it is time to criticise some of the main and completely wrong public statements about this virus.
Firstly, it was wrong to claim that this virus was novel. Secondly, It was even more wrong to claim that the population would not already have some immunity against this virus. Thirdly, it was the crowning of stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever.
But let’s look at this one by one.
1. A new virus?
At the end of 2019 a coronavirus, which was considered novel, was detected in China. When the gene sequence, i.e. the blueprint of this virus, was identified and was given a similar name to the 2002 identified Sars, i.e. Sars-CoV-2, we should have already asked ourselves then how far [this virus] is related to other coronaviruses, which can make human beings sick. But no, instead we discussed from which animal as part of a Chinese menu the virus might have sprung. In the meantime, however, many more people believe the Chinese were so stupid as to release this virus upon themselves in their own country. Now that we’re talking about developing a vaccine against the virus, we suddenly see studies which show that this so-called novel virus is very strongly related to Sars-1 as well as other beta-coronaviruses which make us suffer every year in the form of colds. Apart from the pure homologies in the sequence between the various coronaviruses which can make people sick, [scientists] currently work on identifying a number of areas on the virus in the same way as human immune cells identify them. This is no longer about the genetic relationship, but about how our immune system sees this virus, i.e. which parts of other coronaviruses could potentially be used in a vaccine.
So: Sars-Cov-2 isn’t all that new, but merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer, as all cold viruses do — which is what we’re observing globally right now. Flu viruses mutate significantly more, by the way, and nobody would ever claim that a new flu virus strain was completely novel. Many veterinary doctors were therefore annoyed by this claim of novelty, as they have been vaccinating cats, dogs, pigs, and cows for years against coronaviruses.
2. The fairy tale of no immunity
From the World Health Organisation (WHO) to every Facebook-virologist, everyone claimed this virus was particularly dangerous, because there was no immunity against it, because it was a novel virus. Even Anthony Fauci, the most important advisor to the Trump administration noted at the beginning at every public appearance that the danger of the virus lay in the fact that there was no immunity against it. Tony and I often sat next to each other at immunology seminars at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda in the US, because we worked in related fields back then. So for a while I was pretty uncritical of his statements, since he was a respectable colleague of mine. The penny dropped only when I realised that the first commercially available antibody test [for Sars-CoV-2] was put together from an old antibody test that was meant to detect Sars-1. This kind of test evaluates if there are antibodies in someone’s blood and if they came about through an early fight against the virus. [Scientists] even extracted antibodies from a llama that would detect Sars-1, Sars-CoV-2, and even the Mers v