A Little Wednesday Navel Gazing
From the News:
According to my CNN news feed, the country of India has a mysteriously low death rate from Covid-19, like 800 out of more than a billion, whereas the US has more than 59,000 deaths out of only 309 million.
I find this very interesting because early estimates predicted that the highly contagious coronavirus would race through the various slum-like living conditions of many of the 1.3 billion people who populate India, wreaking havoc on an ill-prepared health system.
If I study my navel really hard (navel gazing- self-indulgent/excessive contemplation of a single issue, at the expense of a wider view), I find myself thinking about vegetarianism in India and this low death rate. This country has the largest number of vegetarians, mostly due to Hindu and Buddhist (among other) religious practices. Demographic maps of 2014 show a whopping thirty-one percent of the three million people queried are veggie people, compared with only five percent in other countries such as the US. It has been estimated that more than 500 million of the 1.3 billion are vegetarian, only prevented from being vegan by the ghee (clarified butter) and sometimes milk added to dishes. Also, one may find the occasional egg thrown in. In fact, many meals are simply referred to as being vegetarian, while they are actually one hundred percent vegan, whether from poverty–lentils are cheaper than milk–or from cultural cooking norms.
So, back to Covid-19. Viruses are mainly ‘dead’ but are like little zombies in that they metaphorically ‘eat the brain’ of a cell and take it over, replicating and making us sick as our bodies fight them. Well, again with the navel gazing, I know that the little zombies use proteins to accomplish this feat. They are the perfect parasite, consisting of genetic material—DNA or RNA–enclosed in a protein coating. No known virus contains ribosomes, the necessary component of a cell’s protein-making translational machinery, thus viruses can replicate only within a living host cell. The viral fusion proteins bind to receptors on the cell membrane. Once a virus gets inside a cell, it hijacks the cellular processes to produce more virally encoded protein that will replicate the virus.
Scientists have analyzed spike proteins, structures on the virus that it uses to grab and penetrate the outer walls of human and animal cells. They focused on two important features of this spike protein: the RBD, a hook that grips onto host cells, and the cleavage site, a molecular can opener that allows the virus to enter host cells which provide protein for reproduction.
Note the keywords host and protein. Animal/human protein specifically. Indulge me, my meat-eating friends.
Okay, okay, I know I’m a veggie person so have a skewed perspective. But suppose, just suppose, if there were less animal protein around, such as that found in the wet market in Wuhan, China where the coronavirus decided to have a deadly party, maybe the virus could have gained less of a foothold. We know that the most viruses need protein to proliferate, so just suppose a human, whose body and blood was full of animal protein, might make a better breeding ground for the little zombies, by providing what they need to proliferate.
Conversely, one could posit that, since viruses also use enzymes to enter and proliferate in cells, maybe a high alkaline diet might be preventative. Obesity has also been a factor and people in India run thin by nature. Just saying. All aspects should be looked at and I certainly wish everyone infected a speedy recovery.
Someday, certainly not during a crisis such as we are currently experiencing, it might be a really interesting study to observe whether heavy meat eaters have poorer outcomes when infected with COV-2 compared to vegans or veggie-folk.
We know coronaviruses, actually most viruses, come from animals which jump to humans and then cause all kinds of little mutations when they imperfectly replicate. The cold and flu viruses for example, mutate frequently and new flu vaccines must be created every year.
Quoting Naomi Forrester-Soto, Vector Biology, Keele University–
“From research over the past few decades, we understand some of the mechanisms that contribute to virus jumps between species. Influenza virus is a classic example. The virus contains eight genome segments and if two different viruses infect the same cell, segments from both can mix to create a novel virus species. If the proteins on the surface of the new virus have significantly changed from currently circulating influenza virus strains, then no one will have immunity and the new virus can easily spread.
“This shift in the influenza virus is called antigenic shift. This is what we think happened with the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic, with the shift occurring in pigs and then jumping to humans to start the outbreak. There is also genetic evidence that this mechanism can occur in coronaviruses, although its role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 remains to be determined.”
NattyBits sidenote-Most of our infectious diseases came from animals when we started domesticating them only eleven thousand years ago – such as diphtheria, influenza A, measles, mumps, pertussis, smallpox, tuberculosis. Others probably from came from apes (hepatitis B) or rodents (plague and typhus).
Cold viruses act a little differently, proliferating in the upper respiratory area only. There are more than two hundred viruses that cause the common cold. The human rhinoviruses are by far the most common. Coronaviruses take second place, causing about one third of common colds. This is why we’ve never been able to make a vaccine or a cure for the common cold.
Since the SARS-CoV-2 entered humans in its current pathogenic form from an animal source, it raises the probability of future outbreaks, as the virus could still be circulating in the animal population and might once again jump to humans. We really need acoronavirus vaccine.
It is also unclear what changed in the virus to allow it to infect humans, especially Americans, so easily. Could it be humans love of eating animal protein? Weight? A high acid diet?
However, given that three major diseases have emerged from the coronavirus family in the past twenty years – SARS, MERS and COVID-19 – it is unlikely that this will be the last time a coronavirus jumps into humans and causes a new disease outbreak.
Order from disorder:
Tips from the web–
Plan your meals. Eating at home most of the time has become something of the new norm. Also, trips to the grocery have become more about putting on protective gear properly and rushing through to get what you need and get out as quickly as possible. Browsing is no longer an option unless you shop online and do delivery or pickup.
Logic dictates that a well-planned list is a very good thing, regardless of the way you currently shop. Choose your family’s ten favorite meals, especially those with few and simple ingredients, and choose from them to make a menu for the week. Choose your family’s five top snacks and add a few to the list. Choose your family’s favorite drive through take out meals and sub at least one night during the week for that. Remember that you now also have to plan breakfast and lunches as well as suppers.
Also, keep in mind the predicted meat and food shortages and plan a few good frozen meat meals that can stretch across a few days.
Walking is really the best exercise, especially during a pandemic when we are forced to exercise wearing masks and maybe even gloves.
Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, remember ‘even a little is good, but more is better’.
You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
Increased heart and lung fitness
Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
Improved management of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
Stronger bones and improved balance
Increased muscle strength and endurance
Reduced body fat.
And never forget–walking relieves stress. Something we could all use right now.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
– William Shakespeare
From Leo Baubauta, Zen author–
Helping a fellow human being, while it can be inconvenient, has a few humble advantages:
- It makes you feel better about yourself
- It connects you with another person, at least for a moment, if not for life
- It improves the life of another, at least a little
- It makes the world a better place, one little step at a time
- And if that kindness is passed on, it can multiply, and multiply
So take just a few minutes today and do a kindness for another person. It can be something small, or the start of something big. Ask them to pay it forward. Put a smile on someone’s face.