F Rosa Rubicondior: Malevolent Designer News - Going for Quantity Because Quality Isn't Enough Any More

Saturday 24 July 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Going for Quantity Because Quality Isn't Enough Any More

A queue at a hospital in Surabaya, Indonesia, that treats people with COVID-19. Indonesia has been hard hit by the δ-variant.

Credit: Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty
How the Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread

Creationist mode:

It's looking as though, annoyed by the success of medical science's vaccines in combatting its latest attempt to kill as many people as possible with its SARS-CoV-2 virus, Creationism's favourite divine malevolence has opted for quantity, now quality has fallen, with its latest modification to its design - the δ-variant.

Scientists led by epidemiologist Jing Lu at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangzhou, China, have shown why the δ-variant has spread so far so fast. The have shown that it has a shorter incubation period so people begin shedding viruses and infecting others more quickly, often before contacts can be traced. Infected people also have a 'viral load' up to 1260 times higher than with the original strain.

They reached these conclusions after tracking 62 people who were quarantined after exposure to COVID-19 and who were some of the first people in mainland China to become infected with the δ strain. They measured the viral load every day through the course of the infection and compared their data to that of 63 patients who were infected with the original strain in 2020.

Daily New Cases (at 23 Jul, 2021)
Source: Gov.uk
An illustration of the rapid rate of spread of this variant is this chart of the daily number of new COVID-19 infections in the UK as reported by the UK Government (the chart is of my design). Note the steepness of the most recent increase compared to earlier waves, indicating a higher transmission rate, even in a population in which almost 89% of adults have had at least one vaccination and almost 70% have had two.

You can also see an animation of the spread of the δ-variant in the UK as it began in the English North-East, spread to Scotland and is now rapidly moving south, in this slideshow, compiled from the daily distribution maps provided by the UK Government.

In their paper, which is published ahead of formal peer-review, they report that:
[The] virus was first detectable in people with the Delta variant four days after exposure, compared with an average of six days among people with the original strain, suggesting that Delta replicates much faster. Individuals infected with Delta also had viral loads up to 1,260 times higher than those in people infected with the original strain.
So, the success of this latest variant appears to be its ability to produce quantity, rather than quality. If it can't manage to kill as many people as originally, then it's going to make as many people as possible very sick.

Creationist mode:

As for the real science, as opposed to the Creationist fantasy, in the Nature Briefing news item by Sara Reardon:
The combination of a high number of viruses and a short incubation period makes sense as an explanation for Delta’s heightened transmissibility, says epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling at the University of Hong Kong. The sheer amount of virus in the respiratory tract means that superspreading events are likely to infect even more people, and that people might begin spreading the virus earlier after they become infected.

And the short incubation makes contact tracing more difficult in countries such as China, which systematically tracks each infected person’s contacts and require them to quarantine. “Putting it all together, Delta’s really difficult to stop,” Cowling says.

Genetics researcher Emma Hodcroft at the University of Bern in Switzerland agrees that the mechanism makes sense. She and Cowling both suspect that estimates of the exact difference in viral load between Delta and the original strain are likely to shift as more scientists study the virus in various populations.

A number of other questions about the Delta variant remain unanswered. It’s still unclear, for instance, whether it is more likely to cause severe disease than the original strain, and how good it is at evading the immune system. Hodcroft expects some of this information will emerge as researchers look more closely at broader and more diverse populations of people infected with Delta and other variants. “This virus has surprised us,” she says.
The team's findings are published open access, ahead of peer review, in the pre-publication server, medRxiv:
This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review. It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice.

We report the first local transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in mainland China. All 167 infections could be traced back to the first index case. Daily sequential PCR testing of the quarantined subjects indicated that the viral loads of Delta infections, when they first become PCR+, were on average ~1000 times greater compared to A/B lineage infections during initial epidemic wave in China in early 2020, suggesting potentially faster viral replication and greater infectiousness of Delta during early infection. We performed high-quality sequencing on samples from 126 individuals. Reliable epidemiological data meant that, for 111 transmission events, the donor and recipient cases were known. The estimated transmission bottleneck size was 1-3 virions with most minor intra-host single nucleotide variants (iSNVs) failing to transmit to the recipients. However, transmission heterogeneity of SARS-CoV-2 was also observed. The transmission of minor iSNVs resulted in at least 4 of the 30 substitutions identified in the outbreak, highlighting the contribution of intra-host variants to population level viral diversity during rapid spread. Disease control activities, such as the frequency of population testing, quarantine during pre-symptomatic infection, and level of virus genomic surveillance should be adjusted in order to account for the increasing prevalence of the Delta variant worldwide.

And still that question for Creationists goes unanswered: why do you prefer the view of your beloved creator god as the mendacious malevolence this pandemic shows it to be, if you believe it alone creates these organisms, than accept that there is a perfectly natural explanation for this pandemic and subsequent proliferation of these new and more dangerous strains of the virus, in the form of evolution by natural selection - an amoral, uncaring, undirected process in which neither gods nor intelligent intent play any part?

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