Category: Medicine

Tom Jones and the Vaccine Wars

Viewers of The Graham Norton Show on 29 January may or may not have been shocked to hear that the singer Tom Jones, of whom I have never really been a great fan, has recently turned 80 years old. I understand that he now lives in London, and viewers probably would not have been surprised to learn that he had received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Maybe I am unduly suspicious of favouritism towards the ultra-wealthy, but I, for one, was interested to hear that he had already had his second dose! Sir Tom said that he felt “bulletproof” on being fully vaccinated. The star of The Voice UK, however, mused: "I thought I'd be able to go out and sing some live shows now, but you've got to have an audience for that. If they haven't had the jab, what's the point?".

Although Sir Tom was looking at the problem from a slightly selfish perspective, his message was similar to that of UN Secretary-General António Guterres in May last year, when global mortality from the virus was a mere 220,000. Guterres commented then, “In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe.” He also said “We have a common vision. Let us now put people first everywhere.”

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What is CRISPR-Cas9?

I have always thought that women are wonderful creatures. It is my fervent belief that if World history had included far more women in leadership roles the planet might be not be in the mess (to put it politely) that it is. In chemical terms, I think it can be argued that testosterone has done as much global damage as carbon dioxide.

Nobel Prizes are among the most prestigious awards for achievement in various fields, and I think it is a shameful fact that as of this year only 57 women have been awarded Nobel Prizes compared to over 866 men! With all of the above in mind, I was delighted to read that the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry had been awarded to Dr Jennifer Doudna from the USA and Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier from France. Doudna and Charpentier were given the prize for their development of the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9, or often simply “CRISPR”.

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The Problem With COVID International Comparisons

Like many other European countries, the UK is seeing a rapidly increasing number of COVID infections at present. The national lockdown earlier in the year was very effective in suppressing spread of the virus, but governments are aware of the very severe effects that the lockdown had on the economy, and on the mental health of many in the population. The Westminster Government was, by all accounts, surprised at the degree of compliance of the population with full lockdown, but there is growing evidence that a significant sector of the population is unwilling to comply with the various measures now being proposed to slow the spread of the disease.

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Anti-COVID Antibodies 2: Monoclonal Antibodies and Why the Llama could be Man’s New Best Friend

The current COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an unprecedented global search for treatments and vaccines. As stated in my previous post, antibodies have attractions as potential antiviral treatments, and trials are already underway using convalescent plasma from patients who have recovered from infection with SARS-CoV-2. I have already mentioned the limitations of this approach, however, and the advantages of using highly specific monoclonal antibodies instead.

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Anti-COVID Antibodies I: Basic Principles

The fact that viruses reproduce using the host cells’ metabolic processes makes it more difficult to design drugs to target them after they have entered the cells. There is always the possibility that any drug developed might damage the host as well. It is far better to prevent the virus entering the cells using a chemical entity specifically targeted at the virus in question: this is where antibodies come in.

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Tory COVID Lies and Incompetence

For years now UK politics has been like this: whatever the Conservative Government says I assume is a lie until proven otherwise. I find this to be a significant source of stress. There are numerous examples of the UK Government lying to the public in the last few years, but perhaps the most outrageous recent examples are the lies they have told over the preparation for, and management of, the current COVID Pandemic.

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Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 2

Zoonoses (human infections of animal origin) have become increasingly important in recent decades. Viral infections in this category include HIV, Ebola, and the Coronavirus diseases MERS, SARS, and most recently COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2. This is not an accident: it results from the relentless tendency of humans to plunder ecosystems without regard for the consequences.

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Viral Origins: Past and Present Part 1

President Donald Trump has made a number of references in the past, and made a few more in his recent 4th July Address to the Nation, to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 originated in China. He always makes these remarks in a way that suggests (a) that China deliberately, or by negligence inflicted the virus on the World; and (b) that such a thing would never happen in the United States of America.

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COVID: Myths and Misinformation 1

I previously made the point that social media platforms can provide an invaluable means of spreading useful public health information about the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also generated a variety of bizarre beliefs, and these have spread throughout the World, largely through social media. Social media services have also allowed individuals to denigrate effective measures, such as social distancing, and to promote totally ineffective coronavirus “cures”.

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