Monday Article #20: COVID-19: THE SURVIVAL GAME & its SIGNIFICANT LINK with BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

COVID-19: THE SURVIVAL GAME AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE

IN CURBING INFECTIOUS OUTBREAKS IN THE FUTURE


There is no doubt that Homo sapiens have been the most successful species on Earth. From

being members of a large and noisy family called great apes about 6 million years ago to

becoming the species that eventually took over and revolutionized the world, Homo sapiens

have definitely come a long way. Have you ever noticed that there are various species of other

animals such as dogs, cats, horses and monkeys, but only one species of humans exist on

Earth today. However, long ago, we had a few other human species living on this planet. Homo

sapiens are said to be so successful to the point that we drove other human species such as

Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo erectus to extinction. Not only did we become the only

human species on Earth, but we also survived various infectious outbreaks. From the smallpox

outbreak thousands of years ago to the current Covid-19 pandemic, humans have gone

through various outbreaks so far. Thus, the life of humans on Earth has definitely been a

survival game.


 

Now, let’s take a look at Covid-19, the disease that eventually ended up changing the way we

live on this planet. If we were to say to a person back in 2015 that a virus outbreak will happen

and end up changing everyone’s lifestyle in a few years’ time, the person might think that we

have a good sense of imagination. When it comes to combatting Covid-19, it is undeniable

that vaccines have a major role to play. Vaccines have definitely been a game-changer for

humans in combatting infectious outbreaks as they have shown to be very effective in doing

so for centuries. The first-ever vaccine was developed against the smallpox virus in 1796. A

British doctor discovered that infection with a mild cowpox virus built immunity against the

smallpox virus. This then led to the development of the first-ever vaccine in human history,

which consisted of the mild or weak cowpox virus used to inoculate the population. The

immune system recognized the virus and was able to respond to it by producing antibodies.

To be more specific, the antibodies were produced by white blood cells called B-lymphocytes.


These antibodies then responded to the mild cowpox virus and neutralized it, and the

antibodies remained in the blood. When a person previously inoculated with a mild cowpox

virus was infected by the smallpox virus, he or she already had the antibodies against it in

their blood, which quickly responded and neutralized the smallpox virus. These vaccines were

so successful that the smallpox virus was declared eradicated by the World Health

Organization in 1980. This is the basis of how vaccines work, and the similar concept applies

to the vaccines we use now for our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we do now

have different types of vaccines available as well, such as RNA (Ribonucleic acid) vaccines.

In simple terms, RNA vaccines consist of the recipe needed to synthesize the antibodies

against SARS-CoV-2 instead of the weakened or attenuated version of the virus itself, and

they similarly function to direct the body to synthesize the antibodies against the SARS-CoV-

2 virus.


Although there are many controversies surrounding the efficacy and safety of Covid-19

vaccines, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. However, the efficacy of vaccines itself

can be challenged when the virus mutates. It is said that the dominant variant now, which is

the Omicron variant is far different from the original strain discovered in Wuhan back in

December 2019. The virus itself has mutated persistently from its original strain found initially.

Although most of these mutations do not significantly affect the structure of the virus, some

major mutations unfortunately do. Some of them found globally include Omicron, Delta, Alpha,

Beta and Gamma. In addition, there is also a new strain found recently which consists of the

mutations from both Delta and Omicron, called Deltacron. When looking at these mutations

that keep on occurring, it might feel like our battle against Covid-19 will be a never-ending

journey. In fact, this might just be the case. We humans might just need to learn how to adapt

and live alongside this never-ending mutating virus.


This Covid-19 pandemic has pointed out a very important fact, about how we humans are so

unprepared for an infectious outbreak. The co-founder of Microsoft and also a dominant figure

when it comes to public health, Bill Gates, actually mentioned in his TedTalk back in April 2015

about how we are not ready for the next outbreak. A few years down the line, what he said

was actually proven. Perhaps nations should have taken the facts that Bill Gates pointed out

more seriously and should have taken the necessary actions. Moving forward, it is certain this

Covid-19 pandemic will definitely not be the last pandemic that the world is facing. There are

surely more pandemics and outbreaks that may arise in the future even if we successfully

eradicated SARS-CoV-2 at some point, and we humans must get prepared for the worst. So,

how do we get prepared? What needs to be done? How to ensure that humans will continue

to survive? This is the point where the biomedical science field plays a very crucial role, in

identifying and conducting researches about infectious agents that has the potential to

become an outbreak in the future as well as preparing the most needed drugs and vaccines

to combat these infectious agents. We have to get started now to ensure that what has

happened now will not repeat itself. As we move into the future, it can clearly be seen that the

biomedical science field is becoming more and more significant to ensure the survival of

mankind. Nations will need to allocate more budget for biomedical science research, and more

specialized researchers need to be trained and recruited. Facilities needed for biomedical

science researches must also be well prepared. More wealthy people may need to come

forward to invest in the biomedical science field. Remember that when investing in the

biomedical science field, you are actually investing in the well-being of human lives. Humans

have successfully survived on this planet for the past 2 million years, and these actions need

to be taken swiftly to ensure that we will continue to be on the top and leading in the survival

game.

 

References:

1. Harari, Yuval N. author. (2015). Sapiens : a brief history of humankind. New York

:Harper,


2. Kreier, F. (2022). Deltacron: the story of the variant that wasn’t. Nature, 602(7895),

19–19. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00149-9


3. Smallpox | Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, February 19). CDC.

https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/index.html#:~:text=Smallpox%20Virus&text=Thanks%

20to%20the%20success%20of


4. TED. (2015). Bill Gates: The next outbreak? We’re not ready [YouTube Video]. In

YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Af6b_wyiwI


5. The Immunisation Advisory Centre. (2017, April 4). A brief history of vaccination.

Immunisation Advisory Centre. https://www.immune.org.nz/vaccines/vaccine-

development/brief-history-vaccination.

 

This article was prepared by: Thiiben A/L Krishnan Sami

 

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