I woke with the above two words in my mind and the first thing of thought of was ‘the virus’. Please bear with me today because understanding how these two words are associated with a virus is not normally the domain of a social scientist.

What is the difference between the meaning of Reproduction and Imitation? It appears that an imitation is not necessarily perfect while a reproduction implies perfect. An imitation can be described as the action of copying whereby reproduction implies to produce again or anew by natural process.

Viral Reproduction is pretty perfect.

Viruses are tiny infectious agents that rely on living cells to multiply. They may use an animal, plant, or bacteria host to survive and reproduce. There are two processes used by viruses to replicate: the lytic cycle and lysogenic cycle. Some viruses reproduce using both methods, while others only use the lytic cycle. In the lytic cycle, the virus attaches to the host cell and injects its DNA. Using the host’s cellular metabolism, the viral DNA begins to replicate and form proteins. Then fully formed viruses assemble. These viruses break, or lyse, the cell and spread to other cells to continue the cycle.

Like the lytic cycle, in the lysogenic cycle the virus attaches to the host cell and injects its DNA. From there, the viral DNA gets incorporated into the host’s DNA and the host’s cells. Each time the host’s cells go through replication, the virus’s DNA gets replicated as well, spreading its genetic information throughout the host without having to lyse the infected cells. [1]

Viral Imitation is pretty imperfect.

In humans, viruses cause many diseases and normally cause an immune response in the host, which can kill the virus. However, this is not always the case, which is why vaccines have been created. Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. This type of infection, however, almost never causes illness, but it does cause the immune system to produce T-lymphocytes and imitate the virus so that the body can create an immune response. Scientists take many approaches to developing vaccines. These approaches are based on information about the infections (caused by viruses or bacteria) the vaccine will prevent, such as how germs infect cells and how the immune system responds to it. [2]

Every year a flu vaccine is created to reduce the amount of viral influenza infections. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. If the vaccine is ill matched then this percentage can reduce significantly. In general, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A(H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A(H3N2) viruses. [3]

COVID-19 is a type of Corona virus that is similar to SARS but much is still unknown about it. Corona viruses are common for causing illness in a number of different animals species and can infect humans. Some species carry them without becoming sick, like bats for SARS and Camels for MERS. Corona viruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown. [4]

In a Letter to the Editor of Science China Life Sciences, they conclude that the new virus “poses a significant public health risk for human transmission via the S-protein-ACE2 binding pathway.” In the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19, Scientists are closing in on the Spikes, the S-protein. [5]

Oxford University this week began its human trials for what is known as a recombinant vector vaccine. A live replicating virus is engineered to carry genes derived from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These genes produce proteins against which the researchers hope to generate immunity. According to a statement from the university, the initial study, aims to assess whether healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 . It will also provide “valuable information on safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.” [6]

Some people argue that naturally acquired immunity—immunity from having the disease itself—is better than the immunity provided by vaccines and for many people this is true. However, for many other people natural infections can cause severe disease that is lethal. This blog is not about the for or against debate of vaccines but identifying that they are less than perfect because they are imitations. In the meantime even if we vanquish COVID-19, a continuing if not escalating perfect storm of events foreshadows other viral epidemics: climate change, human travel, and our encroachment into the turfs of other animals.

Governments have a responsibility to focus on the underlying factors for the emergence of these viral epidemics while scientists maintain their focus and research on how to best to create a vaccine that reproduces what is needed for the best protection. In the meantime as individuals we have a responsibility not only to help prevent the spread of the disease as best we can but to think about how our actions can reduce future epidemics.

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/viruses/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-understand-color-office.pdf

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm

[4] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus

[5] https://blogs.plos.org/dnascience/2020/02/20/covid-19-vaccine-will-close-in-on-the-spikes/

[6] https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/wellbeing/2020/04/24/coronavirus-vaccine-september-oxford/