It’s already more than a year since the official announcement of the first cases of COVID-19 in the Wuhan Province of China, in December 2019, so to be titled and popularized, the recent global coronavirus pandemic infection, as COVID-19 (Coronavirus infectious disease of 2019). Soon later on after the first discovery of the COVID in December of 2019, it was revealed that the infection had been diagnosed and reported in China as early as November and October of 2019. While COVID was reportedly confined to China in 2019, soon after the new year celebration, the whole year of 2020 was spoiled by the spread of the infection to other countries, first labeled epidemic then soon pandemic.
First as all we know and remember, China lost its first rank on the list of COVID-19 cases and its mortalities, to western European countries first Italy, then Spain, France and the rest. Soon the western European countries also lost their top ranks to US, then Brazil, Russia, now India, Mexico, and so on. It has been criticized from the beginning, on this site that the world and the authorities of all countries through media have scared their subjects more with panic than the mortalities of the pandemic that has not exceeded anywhere more than 1-2%. While almost all the mortalities have befallen on elderly population specially in crowded pathologic environments such as nursing homes and on the subjects, young and old with underlying severe medical conditions with compromised immunities, the world authorities and media have not slowed down or stopped their scarecrow roles, but have intensified it.
As if there is a global benefit in panicking people, there’s already the news that even vaccinating everyone, that has been labeled as offence to the virus, people still should be on the defence as well, like a good sport team. Moreover there is more scary news in the media that the virus has mutated and its mutation version could be resistant to our man made vaccines that have already cheered up to be back living mask and restriction free as the life was before. As if there are some sources benefitting the panic of people and their lockdowns. When a single tragedy is exaggerated and overgeneralized, it will be a comedy and not believable anymore. We all know the story of how a simple phobia could be overgeneralized and scare the subject even from the shadow of the initial fearing stimulus. For example, a person phobic of dogs, if not helped and treated, he or she soon will be afraid of even the sound of barking of a dog when no dog is in the scene or the shadow of dog or even a puppet dog. That is how a tragedy would turn into a comedy and will become a belief to the subject, while to the outsiders it will be funny and a comedy. The current panic of the pandemic with a very low mortality rate, perhaps to the eyes of an alien from the outer space would look as very funny and a comedy!
Aside all the gossips, publicity, conspiracy theories and panics, the following main text will instigate the logics, if any left, or common sense, if each of us have any, lest the abundant scientific evidences against a panic that should not have propelled our hearts from the start, but should have fueled our brains a bit, at this era of the total brain wash by media, particularly the world wide web. We will see how we all like herds have followed and have been fooled by the scarecrows, who perhaps are as ignorant as all of us, by believing that wearing masks could block the viral entry into our bodies, lest the lockdown and closure of all paths of life. In the years to come, when we look back we will see how the panic of pandemic, made us all look like fools. This is a comedy that a virus with a mortality rate of 1-2% almost all in elderly population and immune compromised subjects, with almost no mortality in healthy, young, middle aged, even healthy elderlies, scared us all like never before. We were not scared, did not wear masks and were not forced to lockdown by SARS and MERS with 30-40% mortality rates, or the common influenza virus that became pandemic during the first world war and still kills 30-40% sporadically the elderlies and very sick people (1-5). Did we ever wear masks when visiting the relatives in hospitals or nursing homes inflicted with the influenza virus that was and is still very fatal?
Lastly before begin the main text in detail, you the reader of this passage, would you be scared and panic if you know that even if you’re infected with the virus and certain that it will not kill you 99.99%, will you still wear a mask or give in to the lockdown?! Wouldn’t you be infuriated with all the scarecrows who scared us all over a year and keep going to the new year, as if we are crows and easy to be fooled?!
COVID-19: A proof of humans’ fragility and ignorance
Good to know your friends and better your enemies:
First of all we need to know, in case we don’t, that not all microbes or viruses are bad, invasive or fatal, but majority of them friendly, necessities and backbones of life. As detailed in the earlier articles on this site on the Coronavirus, viruses as the smallest living particles, through symbiosis have been living within other larger beings including us humans since the inception of life. This symbiosis or living together has been a close and long-term biological relationship, interaction and dependency between all the biological organisms in a mutualistic or parasitic manner. We may already know about good bacteria in our skin, saliva and guts and many of us consume these good bacteria in healthy food products such as dairies, e.g. microbiata for a healthier living (6-9).
We never buckled up to fight against over 100 trillion microbes living in our human’s gut that are vital for the maintenance of our immune system in fight against bad infections and diseases. The science have already informed and warned us not to disturb such endosymbiosis of our gut bacteria, and break the peace pact between them and us by tipping the balance of this equilibrium through causing a stagnant and unhealthy environment for them. For example through constipation, these healthy micorbiata could not be nourished well and over time turn to pathogens with the initial insult to the host by damaging the mucosa of the gut and giving in to malignancies such as colon cancer (10-12).
As it has already detailed in the other articles on this site on Coronavirus, while the healthy and good bacteria is known to the majority of people, the viruses out of scientific arena, are still known as invasive, aggressive and bad. Indeed viruses due to their much minute sizes and their cellular structures, particularly RNA or particle viruses that cannot survive independently, have much more endosymbiotic roles not only in the large size beings like us, but even within bacteria. This mutualistic relationship has been explored in detail recently pointing to the vitality of viral endosymbiosis not for short-term survival but in long-terms and in the hosts’ evolution as the major partners in the hosts’ genomes. In fact the viral symbiogenesis seems to be the most important factor in the evolution of all forms of life on earth (13-14).
Viruses that have been until recently associated with diseases and studied as such, are the most abundant and diverse biological entities on the planet. Recent biodiversity surveys in desert, ocean, soil, animals and plants have revealed the vital roles of viruses in every ecosystem. Due to their obligatory existence as endosymbiont within all other beings larger than themselves, the viruses had to possess evolutionary plasticity to form and maintain the most excellent models of symbiotic relationships. Moreover and most importantly the viruses are the main force behind the genome diversities and genetic evolutions across all species. In fact majority of virus-host interactions all around are commensal or friendly. But even in the case of antagonistic interactions, when there is resistance from the host by fighting the virus through its immune armamentarium, the plasticity and obligation of the virus for endosymbiosis living and evolutionary genetic diversification, assists the survival of the host at the end of the arm race, as the end of life of the host would be the end of life of the virus (15-19).
A great example of such co-evolution and assistance in survival is the “interferon”, a master regulator of the immune system and cell metabolism found in nearly all cell types that has evolved within lives through viral interactions. Other great examples of such mutual benefits to both sides of equation of symbiosis between the viruses, bacteria and the larger hosts, and more so to the benefit of the hosts are evolution of mitochondria, chloroplasts and other cellular vital organelles within any cells that divide and replicate independent of the cells in living creatures like us. In fact the notion of Darwinism based on competitive survival has been replaced in the modern scientific media to the cooperative and symbiotic evolutionary survival (20-25).
One important distinction needs to be appreciated by all specially at this time of COVID panic, is the difference between the virulence or power of entry of bacteria and viruses and aggression and fatalities. The virulent microbes and viruses such as coronaviruses that force themselves for entry to the hosts for survival and symbiosis are in fact not aggressive or fatal, but friendly and commensal. In other word the more virulent for entry the microbes or viruses, the friendlier they are. If we appreciate that our immune system and even our genomes are basically made by tinier living particles such as viruses, and if we want to refine our system on an evolutionary path to healthier and longer living, we need to let the virulent friendly microbes and viruses in and to live with them in peace for a better and healthier life. In fact it has been shown scientifically that the good and virulent bacteria and viruses, for their own evolutionary survival that directly depends on the survival of the hosts, fight and kill other fatal and killer bacteria and viruses within or entering the host, even their own killing particles if needed. In a better word, the good virus for its own survival that’s the survival of the hose in short term and the co-evolution in long-term, weeds out or kills its own bad and ugly killer particles that at times, like traitors act against their roots (26-31).
Studies on plants that were first to appreciate the importance of viral interactions and symbiosis in ecosystem, diversity and evolution of the plants, have shown for long how viruses assist the plants in coping with their adverse environments such as drought, thermal tolerance and adversarial invasions. In human studies, GB virus C has been shown to fight against HIV through down-regulation of cell receptors for entry, reduced replication, promoting interferon and interactions with interleukin immune pathways. Latent herpes virus and cytomegalovirus have also been shown to enhance the T cells immune response to influenza and other fatal microbial invasions. Endogenous retroviruses that make up at least 8% of human genomes and non-retroviral endogenous viruses have been revealed in recent years that have been contributing for million of years to the genetic evolution and diversities of all living forms on earth (32-34).
This so-called endogenization of viral elements has sculpted the evolution of extant genomes in all domains of life. The significance of the contribution of viral interactions in the evolution of their hosts’ genetic make-up, diversity and survival has became possible only since the sequencing and analysis of hosts genomes such as humans in the recent years. In brief, viruses that have until recently been considered fatal and antagonistic to life, at least in the field of virology, genetics, evolution, ecosystem and biodiversity, have been appreciated as the most important vital elements of life on the planet (35-40).
In the case of Coronaviruses, it has also been shown as early as mid-90s, that mouse hepatitis virus strain A59 (MHV-A59) a member of the family of coronaviruses, containing a single-stranded positive-polarity RNA genome, similar to other coronaviruses, e.g. SARS and COVID-19, favours the co-evolution between the mouse and the virus. Impediment in such co-habitation, like our present time resistant to COVID-19, has been shown to cause a lash back against the host (mouse) by creating a genetic bottleneck for the subsequent selection (mutation) of a more virulent variant of the virus. Therefore the most recent news of eruption of new mutant versions of COVID-19 could be an example of such lash back or genetic bottleneck that has been shown in the lab experiments on mice long time ago (41-43).
We all now need to know at this very important time in our short history that evolution has and is being made possible through mutations. All the living diversities that bedazzle us all around have been possible only through genetic mutations. Among all the living beings, the viruses have the most mutation capacities for survival and endosymbiosis. Through these mutations, the viruses such as coronaviruses have evolved into so many varieties such as common cold flu viruses, SARS, MERS and now COVID-19. These mutations for survival and co-evolution has not been confined within one or intra-species, but between or inter-species, and that’s why coronaviruses have been shared among bats, birds and humans. Most recently in 2018, it has been shown that how MERS-CoV by altering the surface charge of its spike (or crown where the name of Corona derives from) surpasses the host cell receptor resistance for entry. This fact has also been shown in another coronavirus, Enteropathogenic porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and porcine delta coronavirus (PDCoV) that how they circumvent or subvert the host’s first line of defence for entry (41-43).
One more fact that we even as lay people need to know now as our lives have been affected seriously by the panic of ignorance, that has robbed us from our normal ways of life, is “the genetic mutation pressure”. This scientific phenomenon well known to geneticist and evolutionists, means the genetic mutation is enforced and removes any resistance and obstacle on achieving its goal of co-evolution. For example and relative to our topic of COVID, on the path of its evolution and adaptation to its host and breaking any resistance, the human coronavirus OC43, that’s the simple common cold virus, has evolved and changed to many genotypes and variants that had already been shown in the human samples in France and China among other places. What we have seen and suffered by the novel coronaviruses of SARS, MERS and now COVID-19 in the recent years are all the tips of an iceberg of biodiversity and power of co-evolution of the coronaviruses deep down in the ocean of a universal ecosystem on earth (42-47).
In an article in March of this year at the start of the current global panic over the pandemic of COVID-19, attacking and resisting towards this coronavirus that has never been an enemy but a friend, a peaceful co-existence with the virus on its path of co-evolution was called to action. But as it has been a rule and not an exception, the ignorance and panic of our human race, did not pay any even tiny attention to this very fact of nature and to the contrary, resistance and fight against the nature and co-evolution through sanitization, wearing masks and lockdowns were put in action. While it is quite understandable that the content of the original paper and the present one are way beyond the simple minds of the majority, our governments and authorities, since our lives now depend on digesting these facts, we all have to, and have no choice, to arm ourselves with the knowledge of such facts, or our demise is invincible.
A brief nutshell of the previous and present papers, for many who could not read through the whole contents, or retain their essence, is summarized here:
*Microbes including bacteria, fungi and even viruses are the backbones of life on earth, and many of them are good, friendly and necessities of life.
*The lives of eukaryotes that all animals on earth including humans have evolved from, have been only possible through symbiosis (living together in peace) and endosymbiosis (living within) of all living beings.
*While everybody with their naked eyes could see some examples of symbiosis, such as co-existence and dependency of animal and human lives on plants, or the growth of moss or fungi on trees and rocks, we need also to learn about the endosymbiosis that we cannot see with our naked eyes.
*Many of us may have already learnt about good microbes in our saliva and gut, or on our skin, and some of us already consuming microbiata food such as dairy products for a healthier living. This understanding and accepting bacterial endosymbiosis within us, should now more than ever take us to the viral endosymbiosis within us.
*Viruses due to their smaller sizes, more simple genetic and cellular constructs and more power of entry and mutations, not only live within us and other larger animals, but within plants and even bacteria as their hosts. Hence the lives of all these hosts and viruses depend on each other in a mutualistic inter-dependency.
*Viruses are the backbones of co-evolution (evolving together) and on this path, they advance the cellular and immune systems of the hosts towards better co-adaptation and co-existence. The evolution of many vital cellular organelles and the immune armamentarium of the hosts including humans, e.g. mitochondria and interferon have been possible only through the bacterial and viral endosymbiosis.
*In fact prior to the first living cell, consisting of cellular organelles and DNA, existed double-stranded RNAs, and before that single-stranded RNAs that give rise to the first form of life that was virion or viral particles (48-51).
*Since the existence of bacteria and viruses in endosymbiosis depend on the lives of their hosts, majority of them have never been enemies or pathogens causing destructive illnesses, but friendlier than what even scientists presumed before, through advancing our cellular and fostering our immune systems against the random environmental adversaries, such as incidental pathogens and harsh climate changes (52-53).
*The bacteria and viruses perhaps like many other things could be divided into “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, based on their friendliness or pro-evolutionary, life destroying, animosity and anti-evolutionary natures. The examples of ugly viruses could be HIV (Human Immune deficiency Virus) and HPV ( Human Papilloma Virus) that cause severe illnesses, morbidities and mortalities. The examples of bad viruses that are somewhere between the ugly and good ones are Hepatitis Virus, Measles Virus that cause moderate illnesses with some morbidities but very low or no mortalities. The examples of the good viruses are some Coronaviruses such as OC43 of the common cold and COVID that causes mild to moderate illness with the lowest degrees of morbidities and mortalities (54-58).
*The first Coronavirus OC43 that spilled over from bats onto our Homosapiens ancestors million years ago and has been living within us since, causing mild common cold has never been an issue of concern lest panic that has been caused by its variant, COVID-19. Viruses specially evolutionary ones such as coronaviruses mutate all the time on the path of adaptation and co-evolution. Therefore the mutant variants of coronaviruses are not just limited to a few types of these viruses such as COVID, SARS and MERS, or the most announced ninja mutant of COVID, panicking all of us more than before. We notice things in general out of curiosity (scientists) or when get hurt (all of us), but life outside of us is immense and has always been going on with or without our knowledge, approval or panic (61-64).
*Lastly the novel mutations of viruses are under the environmental and evolutionary pressures of adaptation towards survival. The emergence of COVID is such a good and evolutionary mutation for the survival of the coronaviruses and their hosts such as us humans. Obviously wearing masks and lockdowns of all paths of life could not and will not stop such evolutionary pressure, and any aggressive and stubborn resistant could cause more mutations including killer ones. Bottom line even the lay people would not mind a mild infection that does not kill them, but they mind the closure of their lives and their suffocation by the ignorant and controlling authorities and governments that now in a universal dictatorship treat all their subjects as slaves in cages (65-69).
Dr.Mostafa Showraki, MD, FRCPC, Lecturer, School of Medicine, University of Toronto.
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