The future of the pandemic according to Dr. Bossche
The immune escape variant did materialize as predicted
We have been following Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche’s content for quite some time, ever since we saw his warnings on the possibility of the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolution towards immune escape variants, a worry that aligned with our own in terms of what could happen as a consequence of mass vaccination during a pandemic. The added advantage of following Dr. Bossche was his isolated stance in the field of immunology that it is the innate immune system that bears the brunt of responsibility for protecting us from COVID-19. His explanation on how innate immunity along with adaptive immunity are together responsible for herd immunity and ending of pandemics was also unique and we attempted to distill that information in a single cohesive summary. That article, despite being the biggest one ever published by Merognomics, has become the most popular content ever, with over 25 thousand reads to date.
Well, the immune escape variant fears have since materialized with the arrival of the Omicron variant. At the time of its emergence, we covered the first scientific thoughts on why the Omicron variant indeed might be the immune escape variant. You can see that data in the video below.
Along the way, the Omicron appears to have become one of the most infectious viruses we ever had to contend with (although we did not find a formal scientific analysis of this). Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite trend of what we wanted to accomplish during the management of the pandemic, which was to dramatically decrease the transmission of the virus in the population.
But no one is asking why this has happened?
What were the driving forces that resulted in the emergence of the immune variant?
We do need to ask these questions because we do need to understand the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 evolution in order to also understand what might be happening next, and as a consequence consider how the pandemic might end. More on that in a moment.
Basically, no one is attempting to predict the pandemic’s future outcomes with actual scientific justifications.
What does Omicron tell us about pandemic future?
For this reason, we were highly interested in Dr. Bossche’s latest blog post pertaining to why the Omicron is both more infectious and milder in nature than previous variants, and how this development could be leading to the future progression of the pandemic. It appears that his earlier worries and warnings with regards to the immune escape variant have materialized, so we definitely wanted to listen to his latest hypothesis.
We have covered this topic in our latest video.
To reiterate, according to Dr. Bossche, there are two forces at play that result in the Omicron being both milder and more infectious. Enhanced infectivity stems from the fact that the Omicron has become an immune escape variant, meaning that it can avoid being targeted by neutralizing antibodies that were meant to reduce infection. However, that still leaves antibodies that when binding to the virus, can promote infection. And these antibodies now can dramatically help the Omicron in being more infectious.
These have been referred to as facilitating antibodies, as in facilitating the viral infection, and the process itself is called the antibody dependent enhancement, as in the enhancement of viral infection, of course. Merogenomics wrote about this concept a while back precisely because at the time it seemed no one was bringing up the concept of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies working against a person. The poor general understanding of this phenomenon among the medical staff meant that this was one of the accidental gross omissions from informed consent when discussing vaccinations. How? By rushing to get as many people vaccinated as fast as possible in the hope that vaccines would rapidly curb the spread of the virus and bring an end to a pandemic. Even though vaccines were never actually tested for inhibiting transmission in clinical trials. But we were still hopeful. Why? Because vaccines had been a star weapon up to that point in fighting pathogens.
The only difference, we never tried using mass vaccinations during a pandemic.
Suddenly the vaccines are not achieving what was really hoped for in terms of the pandemic management. The Omicron has turned things upside down. We have been outsmarted by the virus. More appropriately, we have been outsmarted by the evolutionary forces governing SARS-CoV-2. As a consequence, we are not entirely sure how to predict the future of the pandemic. Normally, it should be nearing its natural end due to population herd immunity which gets established when a sufficient amount of the population builds natural immunity due to surviving prior infection.
What about the Omicron becoming milder than previous variants?
First, let us define the word “milder”. By that, we mean that an infected person is likely to experience milder symptoms of the infection than with the previous variants. Overall, the Omicron variant is still a serious and dangerous variant, even simply on account of how many people end up being infected with it. While we might have reduced the likelihood of experiencing extreme outcomes, some people still will experience these due to their personal predispositions, as it happened with every other variant thus far. And since the Omicron is so ridiculously infectious, the sheer numbers of infected result in still very large numbers of people being affected by the Omicron in a serious and even devastating manner. In that regard, the overall impact of the Omicron is not mild at all.
When we discuss Omicron mildness, we mean that on average, per individual, and not on a population level.
Here is where Dr. Bossche revived an overlooked concept that the virus can hitch a ride to the lungs while being attached to immune cells. This process of bringing the viral infection from the throat and nasal area down to the lungs has been referred to as trans infection. “Trans” basically refers to movement from one location to another. Trans infection in this context means infection moving from one location to another: from nose/throat to the lungs. Apparently, certain receptors on the immune cells, called lectins, can grab SARS-CoV-2 virus by its spike protein sugars!
It seems like sugars are a real drag when it comes to helping the virus with infection! Not only does it seem like the virus can latch onto our cells by sugar molecules attached to cell surfaces, but also by using sugars attached directly to the spike protein to get a free taxi ride provided by our own cells. This is a fascinating concept, apparently already observed for other pathogens, but it seems this area has not been studied much. We could not find much literature.
How this free taxi ride is linked to the Omicron mildness, is that the same antibody dependent enhancement facilitating antibodies that promote infection, they also prevent the spike protein from being captured for that taxi ride. The binding of the facilitating antibodies competes with the binding of lectins to the spike protein sugars (they are officially referred to as glycans, and hence the spike protein can also be referred to as glycoprotein).
That pretty much sums up Dr. Bossche’s explanation for the Omicron unusual phenotype. He might not have covered all of the bases as nowhere does he incorporate the electric charge of the Omicron, which is substantially different from the previous variants, and likely has also contributed to its presentation of infection symptoms. Somehow, the charge of the Omicron affects its ability to fuse with cells via the typical ACE-2 receptor manner. Reduced cleavage of the spike protein by TMPRSS2, an important accomplice in SARS-CoV-2 infection via ACE-2, might be that additional contributing factor. The Omicron can still enter the cells even when TMPRSS2 job of cleaving the spike is not to be found, but then the virus has to contend with another form of entry: which is basically absorption of the virus by the cell in an isolation bubble and then subsequently escaping from it because inside the cells, another protein can cut the spike protein. This process simply is not as efficient as the traditional TMPRSS2 and ACE-2 combo use.
We are talking about some complex dynamics here and it is remarkable that such complex evolution of the virus happened in such a short period of time right in front of our eyes.
What drives this rapid virus evolution?
Here Dr. Bossche provides an extremely unpopular explanation for which he has been shunned from polite circles that do not want to see any narratives that would contradict our preconceived notions of what we can achieve with vaccines.
It is his contention that one of the primary forces governing the evolution of the virus are the antibodies directed against it. This is because, unlike normal vaccination campaigns, when we decided to mass vaccinate during an ongoing pandemic, we introduced antibodies to attack a virus when the virus was already very well entrenched in a population. In other words, there was too much virus to gain control of its transmission with antibodies, and instead, antibodies simply became another evolutionary pressure on the virus.
This is why immune escape variants came into existence, to help the virus alleviate some of that evolutionary pressure by simply evolving to a form that neutralizing antibodies no longer recognize.
Of course, there are other evolutionary pressures acting on the virus as well. Climate can be another one for example. But the antibodies are a big one.
It is this premise of evolutionary pressure that seems to be aiding Dr. Bossche in how he formulates his pandemic predictions, a concept that is still not really accepted.
So where do we go from here?
According to his hypothesis, the Omicron is likely to evolve further to escape its current inability to fetch that taxi ride to the lungs via its sugars binding to immune cell receptors. Therefore, in the near future, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be selected that will restore this sugar-lectin receptor interaction. Once that occurs, then we can expect that new lineage of variants to be more pathogenic than the current milder version of Omicron, while still being as infectious of a virus. Clearly, not a welcome situation. Morbidity and mortality associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection would be obviously expected to increase.
Furthermore, in comparison to the evolution required to create an immune escape variant, the evolution required to overcome mildness and increase virulence is expected to be less difficult. In other words, it is likely to occur much faster than it took for the emergence of an immune escape variant.
Actually, his predictions get even worse than that. So get ready.
In a way, the virus is now trapped in a self perpetuating evolution because by overcoming antibodies and arriving at an immune escape variant that is so much more infectious, the sheer magnitude of infection of people taking place right now is so ridiculously enormous, whether we want it or not, we are automatically forced by the viral infections to continue producing antibodies that now continue the evolutionary feedback loop on the virus. Dr. Bossche expects the future waves of the pandemic to only continue getting bigger and steeper in their amplitude.
Is there a way out of this pandemic?
This part of his predictions is probably the most depressing. Because if we miscalculate and proceed incorrectly, he expects the pandemic to get worse, much worse, and much costlier in lives. Lives that will be taken by the virus in order to achieve a balance that will minimize the constant evolutionary pressure on the virus.
The only way to end the pandemic now is if any combinations of the following are achieved:
- Dramatically reduce the amount of virus with antivirals - this is so that the infected can actually overcome the virus rapidly enough to not allow evolutionary pressure of antibodies to act on the emergence of new variants in an infected individual. This appears the only viable method at the moment according to him, although we were not certain if this was to be a one time use or sporadic use only.
- Increase the number of unvaccinated people - this is obviously not practical as we are talking about the birth of new people and therefore years in the making. Why increase the number of unvaccinated people? Because the unvaccinated would mostly be reacting to the virus with innate immunity which does not drive viral evolution. The innate immunity antibodies are too nonspecific to be effective at that, while still providing important protection from infection. This is why herd immunity is achieved only with the correct balance of protection from innate immunity and natural immunity from those who do get infected. You can only afford to have a certain amount of the population producing specific antibodies from a natural infection that leads to COVID-19 disease, to achieve herd immunity. Going over that threshold runs the risk of putting too much evolutionary pressure on the virus and triggering the emergence of a new variant. This is the natural protection we chose to sacrifice with mass vaccination in hope that adaptive immunity would stop transmission.
- Mass migration of the world's population to distribute the vaccinated individuals among the unvaccinated - this can then attempt to mimic herd immunity protection where the small portion of vaccinated individuals could mimic immunity similar to that post natural infection and survival of COVID-19 disease. This would restore back the proper balance of obtaining very important protection from the innate immunity of the unvaccinated population that does not put evolutionary pressure on the virus, and dilute the evolutionary pressure impact of antibodies of vaccinated individuals. This is a feasible solution at an enormous effort. This is also a very easy solution for vaccinated individuals to seek immediate protection from the pandemic - seek shelter among the unvaccinated population to attain herd immunity protection.
- Decrease the number of antibody evolutionary pressures, specifically highly targeting antibodies such as those produced by vaccination - this is the scariest part of Dr. Bossche’s message, a message he was stating from the beginning, but finally now explaining how and why this danger is to arrive. In essence, what he is referring to is the depopulation of the vaccinated who produce the antibodies that provide the evolutionary pressure on the virus, and this depopulation will eventually be achieved by the SARS-CoV-2, as it will continue to evolve to achieve this very sinister goal.
- We will add one of our own that Dr. Bossche did not provide, but is perhaps less macabre than the one above: decrease the number of antibody evolutionary pressure through immunosuppression - that is taking medication that suppresses the activation of the immune system and therefore prevents the offending evolutionary force of antibodies from being produced in the first place. However, such an approach would come with its own complications associated with a depressed immune system.
As you can see, unvaccinated people are expected to have a certain advantage over vaccinated individuals thanks to still retaining more robust natural innate immunity. In vaccinated individuals, the highly specific antibodies against the spike protein produced as a result of injection mean that such specific antibodies totally outcompete the less specific antibodies of the innate immune system. Basically, the innate immune system in vaccinated individuals is severely compromised from being able to offer protection against the virus. However, if Dr. Bossche’s dire predictions were to pass, it would really mean a calamity for everyone. While the unvaccinated might have some advantages, the negative outcomes will continue increasing for everyone as the variants progress to being more pathogenic.
Does Dr. Bossche expect any of the above potential solutions to happen? Only the one where the virus will start wiping us out. He feels too isolated in his message for the world to heed such warnings and take any effective preventative measures.
Well, that’s not fun to hear at all. Thankfully, somewhere along the way of this penned symphony of destruction, he does remind us that we have individual choices to dramatically enhance our chances of survival of this pandemic until it resolves itself. And that is to take incredibly good care of our immune system. How?
First and foremost is to live an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle.
We can definitely get behind that as that is always the number one message of Merogenomics in general! We promote the idea of protecting oneself with analysis of their DNA code, but good genes or not, the best way to protect one’s health is still by practicing a healthy lifestyle. DNA can at times discover very important predispositions that can be acted upon and save a life, but for the majority, leading healthy lifestyles alone will have some of the most influential beneficial effects on being born with any bad genetics.
Thus, this is our appeal to everyone, once again, in case Dr. Bossche is right: practice a healthy lifestyle! We all know what that is and what that means. Ideally, no smoking, exercising regularly, eating quality food, getting regular sleep, spending time outdoors in nature, and sharing happy moments with loved ones. These alone apparently will provide a bulk of protection moving forward from some of the undesired outcomes, including protection from infection by maintaining the immune system at its best performance level. DNA testing for medical analysis and a healthy lifestyle are forms of insurance protection from the worst future outcomes. But leading a healthy lifestyle does not have to cost you much of an extra investment though (even for quality food if you are simply willing to rearrange what is obtained by the same investment as you always make for your groceries). So this is a pretty good way to move forward.
On top of that, practice antiviral prophylaxis. At first signs of symptoms of infection, or even immediately after being in a large crowd with the likelihood of high viral load exposure, gargle with an antiseptic solution such as Betadine and spray the nasal area. This is a very simple solution championed by Dr. Peter McCullough.
You can consider immune boosting supplements as well, such as vitamin D. Check out the video below on some of the science associated with vitamin D protection.
You also probably will want to remain more vigilant when a new wave emerges to minimize contact and exposure to the virus. It might mean definitely avoiding crowds as much as possible in those times.
In contrast, this is very different from the official statements on best pandemic protection which we want to mention as well: continued vaccination, continued masking, improving ventilation, practicing social distancing, handwashing, and testing for infection. The reason why we want to bring this up is because the above-mentioned protection options are not at all mutually exclusive from the official statements on pandemic management. The recommendation for practicing a healthy lifestyle still stands! Social distancing? We already also commented on it during the different waves of infection and we also agree big time on testing, especially when it comes to access to vulnerable communities. If we are indeed facing a possibility of more dangerous variants, testing should be demanded by those in high-risk groups before interaction. So while we all might be sick and tired of testing, it might be a really good idea when injecting ourselves into vulnerable populations.
In conclusion, we will repeat how we also ended the first summary article on Dr. Bossche’s theories: “We can take this either as a warning or as a misguided interpretation by a single well-meaning individual who ultimately will pay the price with his career for such ill instruction.” We are going to err on the side of caution and try to live a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Screw you virus! Didn’t see that coming! ;)
This article has been produced by Merogenomics Inc. and edited by Jason Chouinard, B.Sc. Reproduction and reuse of any portion of this content requires Merogenomics Inc. permission and source acknowledgment. It is your responsibility to obtain additional permissions from the third party owners that might be cited by Merogenomics Inc. Merogenomics Inc. disclaims any responsibility for any use you make of content owned by third parties without their permission.
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