Part II of an interview with an American virologist - about the coronavirus and how to contain the "wild" polio
The second part of an interview with one of the most famous American virologists of Russian origin, director of the Center for the Global Virological Network, WHO advisor, great-grandson of the rector of the Kazan Imperial University Konstantin Chumakov. This article discusses why COVID-19 is spreading more intensively in some countries than in others, why men die from covid almost twice as often as women, and what are the prospects for defeating polio worldwide.
"Men generally die more often than women"
- Men are 1.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than women, due to differences in chromosomes. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from Yale University in the United States. In your opinion, this discovery can somehow reveal the features of a new infection?
- I would not call it a discovery. Men, in principle, die more often than women. The male sex is weak. And the average life expectancy for men is less than that of women. The role of women in procreation is much more important, because their body is stronger. So there is nothing surprising here. This is true not only for covid. Many other diseases also affect men more often than women. There are exceptions, though. Men and women are still different, no matter how some may try to dissuade us.
But it's important to know about the results of the research you are asking about. Although there is nothing surprising. Many suspected that this was the case.
- With what do you associate the fact that in some countries the coronavirus infection is not spreading as intensively as in others?
- There are many reasons for that. The difference in incidence in different countries is determined by many factors - both genetic and climatic, and the circulation of some other viruses. After all, viruses compete with each other. Let's say that even the intestinal microflora greatly affects how we are often exposed to other infections that spur our immunity.
There is a surprising pattern that the higher the national product per capita, the more covid. It is called the disease of clean hands. People living in less affluence and more unsanitary conditions are more protected from infection. For example, in some African countries, according to some sources, up to 70 percent of the population has been ill. And there was practically no morbidity there. That is, the covid walked through almost the entire population, people received antibodies, and a very small percentage of them were sick.
This is probably not because they lied or are manipulating somewhere, but because people were asymptomatic. And it depends on many reasons. For example, even from diet. People eat more of other foods that stimulate the immune system - herbs, spices, spicy foods. All this can boost immunity. This is an interesting question, but there is no exact answer yet.
- Do you believe the Russian statistics on morbidity and mortality from COVID-19?
- The fact that someone is playing with statistics is quite obvious. This is not my opinion. I have read such studies with analysis in different regions. In some Russian regions they tell the truth, and in some they lie looking into the eyes. It's human nature - no one wants to report to their boss that something is wrong with you.
Of course, these numbers are being manipulated, there are no questions. But I think that this is not only a Russian problem.
Photo: Ilya Repin
Men, in principle, die more often than women. The male sex is weak. And the average life expectancy for men is less than that of women.The role of women in procreation is much more important, because their body is stronger.
"WHO made a very big mistake, stupidity"
- Let's talk not only about covid, because no one has canceled the rest of the issues of medicine. This is the first time the World Health Organization has approved a vaccine for use in an emergency. It was Indonesian nOPV2, created against the polio vaccine strain. The new vaccine is designed to solve the problems created by the old one. Basically, to put it simply, is this a polio vaccine?
- This is not entirely true. Let me explain: the polio vaccine, which was created about 60 years ago by the American virologist of Polish origin, Albert Seibin, is based on live viruses. It has been successfully used for vaccination almost all over the world and has led to a significant reduction in the incidence.
Encouraged by this success, 30 years ago, WHO decided to eradicate polio completely, to stop the circulation of the virus with the help of this live vaccine. And in fact, this is a very effective vaccine - one of the most effective. But, unfortunately, it has a drawback - under certain conditions, the vaccine can mutate, and the virus becomes pathogenic. This is especially true for the second type of vaccine poliovirus, and there are only three of them. He has an unpleasant tendency to reverse - to become more pathogenic. This occurs exclusively when this vaccine virus begins to spread from one person to another in the population. If you vaccinate everyone at once, this does not happen. But if immunity in some area is low, and this virus can be transmitted from child to parent, from parent to another child or adult, then it begins to circulate and gradually turn from vaccine to disease-causing. That is, the virus runs wild. This is what is being observed now.
Unfortunately, the WHO made a very big mistake, I would say stupidity. It is even difficult to call it a mistake, because scientists warned that this should not be done. However, five years ago, WHO decided to stop vaccinating people in developing countries against poliovirus type II. And instead of vaccinating children with a trivalent vaccine, which had all three components, they removed the second type from there and began to use a bivalent vaccine.
Five years ago, WHO decided to stop vaccinating people in developing countries against poliovirus type II. And instead of vaccinating children with a trivalent vaccine, in which there were all three components, they removed the second type from there and began to use bivalent
"To eradicate polio, the vaccine itself had to be eradicated."
- Because of savings or risk reduction?
- Precisely to prevent the formation of a "feral" vaccine virus. They felt that since there is practically no second type, there is no point in vaccinating against it. Allegedly, every time a vaccine is administered, vaccine viruses can become pathogenic variants. The hope was that if the vaccine was removed, they would disappear altogether. But the opposite happened. Immunity to this type II virus has dropped dramatically. And in developing countries, where babies are born in large numbers, almost all newborns under one or two years old have become susceptible to this virus.
As a result, pathogenic derivatives of the vaccine virus began to spread like fire in a dry forest. In 2016, there were only two cases of the disease caused by vaccine derivatives, and in 2020 - more than 900. Accordingly, the WHO was faced with a dilemma of what to do next. These outbreaks, caused by a feral vaccine virus, were attempted to be suppressed with a vaccine, causing more outbreaks. Because immunity is very low, which created fertile ground for such a process.
The only solution was to create a new vaccine that would be more stable. And she was not able to turn into a wild strain. Thank God, Bill Gates understood the problem and gathered a group of scientists.In particular, I also participated in this project to create a new vaccine. And we created it. It has been tested over the past few years. In December, it was recommended for use to block emerging outbreaks caused by a vaccine derivative of the virus. This is a rather unique situation: in order to eradicate polio, the vaccine itself had to be eradicated. If it is confirmed that the new vaccine is more stable and can prevent polio without causing complications, then we have succeeded in making the perfect vaccine. And it will greatly help in the fight against polio.
This is a very wonderful project that can be called a triumph of science. Scientists, having understood the molecular causes of pathogenicity and the creation of vaccines, have made an improved vaccine based on a scientific principle. This vaccine was not created randomly, but on the basis of sophisticated scientific calculation.
- And in the new vaccine, what did you do with the second vaccine strain?
- In fact, this is the vaccine against the second strain, but with much more stable properties. New vaccines against the first and third are being prepared at the moment. The so-called new improved vaccines from the first and third have not yet received approval and are in the testing stage.
A monovalent vaccine has now been developed that will be used exclusively to control outbreaks in Africa caused by vaccine derivatives. But if it proves to be effective, it will be the best vaccine for the future.
"No needles and syringes"
- Will they be applied separately or from all three types at once?
“A monovalent vaccine has now been developed that will be used exclusively to cope with vaccine-derived outbreaks in Africa. But if it proves to be effective, it will be the best vaccine for the future.
When similar vaccines for the first and third types of poliomyelitis are ready, they will be combined into a trivalent vaccine and they will give two drops in the mouth - and have a walk. No needles or syringes. That is, an absolutely safe and 100 percent effective vaccine. Of course, in the USA, the developed countries of Europe, where they have long since switched to a killed vaccine, which is expensive and beyond the affordability of most less affluent countries, most likely, they will not return to a live vaccine. Simply because there is no reason for it. For example, polio has not been reported in the United States for about 30 years. And everyone is vaccinated with vaccines that contain the killed polio virus in combination with others - diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough. This is all done in one shot. No one will replace this vaccine with something else, it is too difficult and expensive.
But now in the world more than 140 countries with a total population of 6 billion people use live-type polio vaccine. Replacing a potentially uncomfortable vaccine for them with a safer vaccine is a better solution. And then the new vaccine is very cheap - it only costs 15 cents. While the killed vaccine costs more than a dozen dollars.
- What kind of polio vaccine is used in Russia?
- A killed vaccine is used in Russia. But as the third and fourth vaccines, the live vaccine is still used. That is, they are vaccinated in combination - first they make two killed vaccines in order to protect children from potentially negative phenomena, and then they give two live vaccines so that immunity is good. This is a very correct tactic. Perhaps the same regimen should be used with a new vaccine. But so far we are not fully convinced that all this works. So rather, these are hopes for the future.
When similar vaccines for the first and third types of poliomyelitis are ready, they will be combined into a trivalent vaccine and they will give two drops in the mouth - and have a walk. No needles and syringes
- In what form is the new vaccine applied?
- Give a drop in the mouth.It is exactly the same as the regular live vaccine. Based on the same virus. Some modifications and improvements have been made only in the genetic material of this virus.