Shreds of hope in the pandemic

A Covid vaccine that’s in development could, potentially, create sterilizing immunity.

Sterilizing immunity? That’s the kind that prevents infection, which means a disease not only can’t get you sick, it also can’t use you to pass itself along to anyone else. If we could get enough people vaccinated with a sterilizing vaccine, we could stop this sumbitch in its tracks.

The snag, of course, is hidden in that word potentially. The thing’s still in development. But if all goes well, it could work on both the existing variants and any new ones and could create immunity even in people whose immune systems sleep through the current vaccines, through bouts of Covid itself, and through math class.

How does it work

The SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccine (PreS-RBD) developed at MedUni Vienna is based on a structurally folded fusion protein consisting of two receptor binding domains (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the PreS antigen from hepatitis B, which serve as immunological carriers for each other, thereby strengthening the immune response.”

Allow me to translate that for you: It’s magic. Don’t worry about it. Although you might want to know that it involves a series of shots to build up to full immunity, and the first trials could start this year. But that depends on funding. 

Irrelevant photo: an ornamental cherry tree. Or I think it’s a cherry.

What doesn’t depend on funding?

Hmm. Dunno. As society’s organized, not much.

Why do I ask so many questions? They’re a cheap and easy way to organize a piece of writing. 

See? Even that depends on funding.


A second shred of hope is that researchers have found a monoclonal antibody that could potentially be a treatment for all Covid variants as well as for SARS and MERS (if they reappear), and for some versions of the common cold. But there’s that word potentially again. So far, it’s gone through animal studies. Next they have to capture some humans and test it on them.

It’s being combined with another monoclonal antibody, and the two together are going by the name AR-701 cocktail right now, but before they’re released into the wild someone will have to give them a less pronounceable name to make them sound more scientific. 

The plan is for people to inhale it, and it could–again, that word–potentially last for a year. 

Covid and male fertility

A very (very) small study raises the possibility that catching Covid could have long-term effects on male fertility. 

Long-term effects? When someone says that,they’re never talking about  good long-term effects. In this case, it means that men who had recovered from Covid had lower sperm counts, more misshapen sperm, and sperm with lower motility than the comparison group. 

Again, it was a small study, so don’t go off the deep end with it. But I can’t help thinking that if you want to discombobulate someone who’s pounding the table about vaccines messing with women’s fertility–

Nah. I’m not going to suggest that. I’ll leave it to you to sink that low.  

News about Covid tests

Two rapid, accurate Covid tests are in development. I’ve written that sentence so many times before, changing only the number at the beginning, that I’m not even going to give you the details. But testing’s another area where–out of sight of the general public–work’s going on that could have an impact on the way this mess plays out.


Covid and the sense of smell 

Omicron’s less likely than the Delta variant to mess up the senses of smell and taste, but a failed attempt to lower people’s viral load–that’s how much Covid they carry around–turned out to protect patients’ sense of smell and taste. It also left them less tired than the patients who got a placebo.

They were using a drug called camostat mesylate, and it’s not clear yet whether it would help restore smell and taste to people who’ve lost them. You can live without both of them, but taste and smell are not minor losses.

The drug will need more testing–which in turn means more time, not to mention more money–before it can be used this way. 

An update on Covid in Africa

One of the mysteries of an already pretty weird disease has been its impact on Africa. According to a World Health Organization’s estimate, 65% of people in Africa have been infected by Covid. That’s something like 100 times more cases than have been reported. Covid cases are undercounted everywhere, and more so in Africa, because so many people have no symptoms. 

When they say “estimated,” they’re not talking about an educated hunch. They’re basing it on blood samples from around the continent. It’s not as accurate as counting every head, but it’s not pulling numbers out of thin air either. 

Earlier in the pandemic, the fear was that Covid would devastate Africa, but it’s turned out to be one of the least affected parts of the world. Multiple explanations are on offer. It has a low percentage of people with risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It has a relatively young population. And some studies suggest that having been infected with other diseases, including malaria, may be protective, but that hasn’t been confirmed and rushing out to buy yourself a case of malaria is not recommended.

But being one of the least affected parts of the world doesn’t mean Africa’s unaffected. It’s had 250,000 Covid deaths. Or known Covid deaths–they also tend to be underreported worldwide. Only 15% of Africa’s population has been vaccinated, and that may mean only one vaccination, since the article doesn’t say “fully vaccinated,” which is the phrase that usually pops up.

22 thoughts on “Shreds of hope in the pandemic

  1. The mention of Maleria intrigues me. My maternal grandfather was sent back to Britain with Maleria in WW1. He had been fighting in the Salonica campaign. He then caught the 1918 flu and, although given the last rites on three separate occasions, survived. He always attributed his recovery to his hatred of priests, but perhaps it was his previous infection……

    Liked by 1 person

    • By the way, I have just finished reading your excellent novel. Not the sort of book I would normally have bought (I tend to read classics or Science Fiction), but I’m very glad I did. T’other half, however, is giving me odd looks. Not sure if it’s because I’m reading outside my comfort zone or the fact that I read it in one sitting and so have ignored him for a good portion of the day……. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • I also finished reading your book this weekend – just left a review for you on Waterstone’s. Really terrific – you actually made fiction stranger than truth to me and reminded me again of why I love to read your words. Hope all goes well with it!! Cover fabulous, too…all the right touches…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, Sheila, both for letting me know and for the review. They do make a difference–or so the theory goes, although no one really know what makes a book take off. If they did, they’d work their magic all the time.

            I love the cover, and Ida and I are pretty sure it’s Milwaukee Avenue, in Minneapolis. Not one of the streets I had in mind, but a perfect fit all the same.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. From my years of experience working as a doctor in Africa, and as a GP in the UK, i think that Africans (especially children suffer) more from respiratory viral infections such as the common cold than British people. More Coronavirus infections could lead to more lasting immunity, with better protection against covid 19.
    Another explanation for reduced impact of Covid-19 in Africa could be lower population density. People living in big cities were more affected than people living in small rural communities.
    Obese African elderly males (more risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension) had worse outcomes with Covid-19 (than women and slimmer or younger men).
    My observations are limited by having only worked for 3 months in rural Africa during the pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Population density’s one thing I hadn’t thought of. the relatively low average age, it occurs to me, is another (less bitter) way of saying that there’s a high mortality rate and a lot of people die of other things first.

      Thanks for your (always cogent) contribution to the conversation.


  3. One development over here is a “breathalyzer” type screening device that can give a 90+ % accuracy of whether Covid is present. It is not a for-home device – it needs to be correctly used and is proposed for screening at airports and similar places where an immediate result is needed.

    Interesting info – especially about why Africa has (for a change) not been decimated by some new horror.

    I did get a second booster, but another friend my age was told by her doctor to wait for a year between boosters. so I will be interested to see how that shakes out.

    Stay safe everyone !

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve read arguments on both sides of the booster timing–or if not the arguments themselves, at least the three-word summaries of them. But they’re offering them here, at least for the vulnerable and the ancient. My partner’s gotten hers and I’m waiting till they get around to me, which shouldn’t be much longer. Since the science on it is still uncertain, I think I’ll make my possible mistakes on the side of doing it.

      Interesting about the breathalyzer-type screening. Sounds useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting point about malaria as many of the team who produced the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine were co-opted from one working on malaria. I’m liking the sound of the sterilizing sort, although if enough men get the wrong end of the stick there & conflate it with the potential impact of Covid on their potency, we could be in for an ever wilder ride anti-vax-wise. I’m keeping many body parts crossed in the hope that wires don’t get crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

      • My timeline had a fair bit of commentary from those who’d personal experience of the vaccine messing with their cycle, so I’m not entirely surprised. My daughter got thrown into a mass allergic reaction after her second bout of the virus, which may (or may not) have anything to do with it. But as the virus – especially in the early days – impacted on multiple organs, I guess it’s no big surprise to think that includes the reproductive organs as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m always amazed by women who know when they’re cycle’s out of whack. I never did manage to keep track. But yes, agreed, the disease does seem to show up in just about every part of the body except the hair, and I don’t know if anyone’s completely ruled that out yet. I haven’t heard about it setting off allergic reactions, but again, why not? It does everything else. I hope I’m still around when someone figures out how it manages to do that.

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