2020 Day 9: New Strain of Coronavirus found in Wuhan, China

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province in central China. I stopped in Wuhan a year ago instead of Hong Kong on a flight between Austin and Bangkok. The flight on China Southern was half the price of flying other airlines, like Cathay Pacific. The problem I noticed was that the weather in Wuhan was much colder than in Austin or Thailand, and so I needed to pack warmer clothes just for the layover – not ideal. Also, on the return flight through China, even though my ticket showed a single stop, the airlines ended up making a second stop and everyone had to get off the plane and wait for a couple hours to go through a customs-like search. I remember one passenger shouting during this time how annoyed he was for this surprise experience. While I was also annoyed, I also found amusement in seeing another example of the multiverse working it’s magic. I could feel the universe where we didn’t have the unexpected stop, and also the universe where the ticket displayed correctly the extra stop. I saw the universe I was experience as one created by the interference pattern of these two other universes.

Today it is being reported that the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak “mystery illness” that has infected 60 people in the last 2 weeks is caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a species of viruses blamed for such deadly illnesses as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses (HIV-1 is also an enveloped virus), which means they have an outer phospholipid bilayer membrane that includes some viral glycoproteins. The viral glycoproteins act as Trojan horse to gain entry into a host cell and also help the virus hide from the host immune system. Coronaviruses have a single-stranded, positive-sense, non-segmented, RNA genome which is the largest of all RNA viruses at around 30,000 bases. Because it is positive-sense and also contains a 5’ cap structure and 3’ poly (A) tail, it can mimic mRNA and be directly translated by the host of the replicase polyproteins, which are encoded by the approximately 20,000 base replicase gene. The replicase polyproteins assemble to form a viral replicase complex that, as you may guess, makes copies of the virus. The remaining 10,000 or so bases encode structural and accessory proteins. The four main structural proteins (all encoded within the 3’ end of the viral genome) are the spike, membrane, envelope, and nucelocapsid proteins. The spike protein has an N-terminal signal sequence that allows it to gain access to the host cell endoplasmic reticulum where it is heavily N-linked glycosylated. Three spike proteins join together to form a club-shape spike projection. These virion projections give the virus the appearance of a solar corona, from which their name derives. For a size perspective, the diameter of the coronaviruse virion is about 125 nm, so a meter long thin straw of diameter 125 nm filled with the virions would contain 8 million virions. For comparison, a single nucleotide is 0.33 nm long and so 30,000 bases has a length of 10,000 nm! Imagine fitting that into a 125 nm diameter virion.

Four identified coronaviruses (HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-HKU1) are endemic in humans and cause up to 30% of respiratory tract infections worldwide each year. HCoV-NL63 has been associated with acute laryngotracheitis (croup). Coronoviruses have different tolerances to genetic variability with some (i.e. HCoV-229E) having little genetic variability worldwide and primarily isolated in humans and others (i.e. HCoV-OC43) showing high genetic variability across time and location. Most cases of coronavirus infection are self-limiting and will naturally run its course.

I’ve been sick with a respiratory infection for about two weeks. A few days ago I tried out my video-doctor health plan and got a prescription for Amoxicillin antibiotics. I also went to Accupuncture and purchased some Chinese herbs. I didn’t pick up the antibiotics prescription and I tried the herbs instead. That night I didn’t sleep well and I felt my body releasing a lot of toxins. My throat was still feeling scratching in the morning with nasal drip collecting in the back of my throat. Once I spit the thick yellow mucus out each morning, I felt fine. I decided to treat myself with water and rest over the next couple of days. I felt the universe where I was taking the antibiotics. I felt the universe where I had continued taking the herbs. I felt the universe where I was drinking more water and resting (and taking a zinc lounge now and then for good luck). Right now I still feel like I have a swollen throat, but it isn’t sore. I didn’t have much mucus this morning. My nasal passages are mostly clear. I expect the three universes to merge together tomorrow and I will feel infection free. Now if I could just find a way to clear the cedar pollen out of the air!

REFERENCE: Methods Mol Biol. 2015; Pehr and Perlman, Coronaviruses: An Overview of Their Replication and Pathogenesis

2020 Day 8: Consumption and Creation

I’ve noticed over the last few days that as my time spent creating posts has decreased, my time spent consuming content has increased. I was able to go about a week before my old habits came almost back to full strength. As I try to restrict my attention to world and financial news, these both start shouting louder for attention. For instance, one of the stocks I am invested in, Drive Shack (DS), had a large daily up movement because their large competitor, Top Golf, was in the news regarding an IPO. In world news, hopefully the tit-for-tat between the U.S. and Iran will end and Congress will reassert it’s authority to declare war.

I volunteered for the Bernie campaign last night. The Iowa Democratic caucuses will occur Feb. 3 and will be brought to you by the letter “B”, for Bernie, Biden, and Buttigieg. Alphabetical order is a reasonable prediction of caucus results for these top 3 candidates.  Super Tuesday is a month later on March 3, after which it will become clear that Buttigieg is the odd man out as Biden hangs on due to strong support from the Democratic Party establishment. What happens next is likely to follow a similar path as 12 years ago when Obama and Hillary ran against each other.