In an earlier article on this website, entitled Covid-19 and Frankenstein. I explained that the most likely scientific explanation for Covid-19’s origins is that it came from a lab. More specifically, it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s top-grade biohazard lab. In that lab, its staff were working on bat viruses, and how those viruses could be altered to infect humans, for many years. I based this view on published scientific papers. I think that the behaviour of Covid-19, throughout this year, has shown how novel the virus is, and how amazingly well-tuned it is to infecting humans and debilitating or killing them. If someone had wanted to make a bioweapon that crashed an enemy’s economy, they couldn’t have done a better than Covid-19. Events this year, so far, have been adding support to this theory, not undermining it.
This shorter blog article focuses on another issue with Covid-19; if the developed world doesn’t change its industrial farming practices, we face even worse Covid-19 outbreaks.
Chop and change
We can all see that things are bad at the moment with Covid-19. The disease is highly infections and it can hang around in people for months. It is able to attack nearly every part of our body and cause respiratory damage and clotting damage in the same person. It also can damage our nerves and harm our brains and our sensory organs. It is an astonishingly strange and predatory disease, and one seemingly highly-specialised to attack us, a fact that only reinforces the case that it was artificially created.
Along with Covid-19’s current dangers is the fact that it could get worse. Covid-19 is an RNA coronavirus, as shown in the Wikipedia illustration. All coronaviruses are well-known for their mutability, in other words, their ability to change their genetic structure. RNA viruses are structurally, relatively fragile. They consist of a lipid-ball topped with spike proteins. Inside is the RNA genetic code, which the viruses uses to force host cells to make copies of itself. This spiky-fat ball can easily fall apart, which is why washing with soap is a simple but very effective way of destroying the virus. Covid-19’s fragility is a weakness for the disease but it also gives the disease flexibility. Its RNA code can be easily changed, by damage, mixing with another virus, chemical effects and other means. This enables the virus to rapidly evolve, and that’s a huge future-danger for all of us.
In human history, many of the disease we contracted came from our livestock. Captive pigs and birds have always been a breeding ground for diseases, where natural disease can combine, mutate and form new variants that turn out to disastrous for humans. In our modern world, where some of us keep literally millions of animals in appalling conditions, this breeding-ground problem has reached unprecedented levels. Animals who suffer have compromised immune systems, making them highly susceptible to diseases. Antibiotics may stop some of this disease creation but they also encourage the evolution of bugs that are antibiotic-resistant. Viruses are also unaffected by antibiotics, as they are a very different type of biological agent. The recent African Swine Flu is a case-in-point. It is working its way around the globe, killing millions of pigs as it goes, because it is such a hardy and lethal virus. Many biologists have been very concerned for over a decade that Avian Flu will mutate in birds into a form that becomes extremely dangerous to humans. Avian Flu will then jump to humans, then transmit from human to human. There is also another dangerous scenario; that a virus that affects humans will jump to a livestock species, mutate, then jumps back to humans in an even more virulent form. This scary possibility leads us back to Covid-19, and mink.
In the developed world, animals aren’t just kept for eating; they can also be kept for their pelts, or their fur. In Denmark, for example, large numbers of mink are kept in cages for this very purpose. This is morally wrong from an animal-welfare point of view, in my opinion. It is also yet another virus breeding ground. In today’s Guardian newspaper, there is an article, The Covid-carrying Danish mink are a warning sign – but is anyone heeding it? The article explains that there is evidence that these mink have already contracted Covid-19 from humans. The virus has then mutated in the mink and then jumped back to humans in its new form. To quote from the article:
Mink ACE2 is slightly different from human ACE2, so mink-to-mink transmission may have favoured a mutated virus with a change to its spike protein key that better fits the mink ACE2 lock. As the antibodies that humans generate to fight off Covid-19 target the spike protein on the external surface of the virus, this mink-adapted virus, which has a mutation in its spike protein, may be better able to circumvent our defences.Danish researchers report that one of the variants of the virus found in mink isn’t as easily defeated by the antibodies that humans produce against Covid-19.
People who contract coronaviruses usually fight them off, and get better, but they often don’t develop any long-term immunity. If they do develop some immunity to that coronavirus, the immunity often fades out in a month or two. Any coronavirus vaccine that people take is likely to have the same effect; a non-existence or short-term immunity to the disease. An effective coronavirus vaccine has always been very difficult to create, which is why there’s no cure for the common cold.
The inevitable different strains of any coronavirus also make it difficult for a person to form any broad immunity, as their immune system is often only primed to deal with one strain. Our ability to deal with the current version of Covid-19 is therefore unlikely to improve much in the future. Just as with any other coronavirus, many of us will get ill, then we will recover. Six months or a year later, we’ll get it again and repeat the process. This is a very depressing idea but it is the likely biological outcome, if we don’t protect ourselves against infection, through masks, washing etc. This is why blanket use of masks and a serious eradication campaign is vitally important.
We therefore have a major challenge on our hands with just Covid-19, and its inevitable mutations. But the problems get much worse if the virus crosses into intensively-reared livestock, particularly animals such as mink and ferrets, then jumps back with new features. If that happens, and the new virus spreads, then our problems will multiply severely. In that scenario, we will be facing waves of new forms of the virus, circulating worldwide, repeatedly jumping across to intensively-reared livestock, mutating, then jumping back into humans. It will be like the African Swine Flu, only we’ll be the ones suffering the effects.
Global change for global safety
The Danish Mink infection is, I think, a serious warning. We must change our entire animal husbandry processes in the developed world, as soon as possible. Our abuse of animals through intensive farming has been going on for decades, without coming back and biting us, but if we don’t stop this setup immediately, we will soon be severely bitten. It may sound melodramatic to title this article Revenge of the caged animals, but at one level, it is most definitely the case.