- Where’s the Beef (Spike)? - June 17, 2020
- Good News on Spread of Coronavirus - May 31, 2020
- Pritzker Scrubs Hands and Crucial COVID Testing Data - May 5, 2020
Antibody testing is widely touted as necessary to determine who is safe to circulate freely in society. In other words, a positive test is a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. In that sense, antibody testing is a valuable diagnostic tool. That is not its only use, however.
A simple epidemiological model is based on SIR information, Susceptible, Infected and Recovered. This data can be used to estimate the extent of the disease, stages of its course through the population, and predict its future consequences. Equally important, the model, supplied with representative data, can accurately estimate the effectiveness of restrictions on personal freedom. Randomized testing for coronavirus is needed to provide facts needed to set policy. Every policy decision should be based on real science, not guesses and opinions in the name of science.
As of now every bit of possible good news is being buried or tainted with doubts. A good example is where Dr. Fauci says antibody test results can be equivocal. People can carry the virus and possibly infect others long after they recover because the virus can often be detected in these individuals. This is not science; it is a guess. Recent data suggests these are false positives, due to fragments of non-viable viruses left in the body.
Another example is statements from the top that recovering from the disease may not confer immunity. This occurs in viruses which mutate substantially. Viruses like influenza mutate when they co-mingle with other viruses when replicating in cells. Others, like Rhinovirus (common cold) mutates so quickly that vaccines are useless. Influenza mutes enough that vaccines provide only about 50% immunity.
Coronaviruses are not known to mutate in this fashion. So far, natural mutations of COVID-19 appear to be minor, due to replication errors, not co-mingled genomes. The key is whether the protein coat of the viral RNA changes in the process. It is this protein coat which enables the virus to attach to living cells, as well as the way in which antibodies block this action.
Remdesivir (an anti-viral drug for Ebola) works best when used in early stages of an infection; however, it is only being tested on critically ill patients. This is an example of looking for something where it can’t be found.
The news consistently reports only the total number of deaths, accompanied by the admonition that “deaths due to COVID-19 continue to rise.” That constitutes an oxymoron because that number can ONLY go up, never down. Since the epidemic follows an exponential model, the number of infections should fall by half in a certain period of time, called the half-life. It will fall by half again in the same time, ad infinitum. It never actually reaches zero and takes about 8 periods to fall to 1% or so. If the curve were symmetrical, the half-life would be on the order of 6 to 10 days.
At this rate, 1% might be a Christmas present (seems more like Groundhog Day). Unfortunately, we don’t know the half-life because the data needed for its evaluation is not being taken.
The large percentage of previously undiscovered infections and recoveries tells us that the mortality of COVID-19 is only slightly more than the common flu. It also suggests that a major resurgence of the infections is unlikely if stay-at-home orders are lifted.
For every person who dies of COVID-19 at home, there are probably 10 who die in hospitals of pneumonia but call it COVID. The infection rate in Sweden is roughly the same as in the US, Canada and Germany. It is the same as in neighboring Denmark and Norway. The death rate is somewhat higher, but only because Sweden keeps better statistics, at home and in public care.
All of a sudden, the Socialist Swedish Utopia is being ignored by the liberals. (It’s actually not socialist. They tried it for a while, then switched back.) Why? Because all of Sweden’s anti-COVID policies were strictly voluntary. No businesses or shops were closed.
Importance of antibody testing
Mark Glennon raised this issue in his Wirepoints article of April 27, 2020, Pritzker is Now Stonewalling Critical Antibody Testing.
Just as highly important information on antibody testing has started to come in for other states,
A recent announcement by Governor J.B. Pritzker to de-prioritize antibody testing happened just as highly important information on antibody testing had started to come in for other states. Pritzker is also withholding results collected so far in Illinois. Gannon called It a mistake and the opposite of what other states are doing.
As Mr. Gannon reported: “Antibody tests, which only became available in early April, also called serology tests, are important because they indicate how much of the population had coronavirus, though they probably never knew, and are therefore likely to be immune for some time. That information is also a key variable heavily influencing projections about rate of future infections. Getting particular attention are new numbers from New York and Florida, where very large parts of the population tested positive for antibodies.”
A recent Stanford University antibody study estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies, as reported by The Hill.
Antibody testing started this month in Illinois with quite a bit of fanfare and publicity. The Chicago Tribune, for example, quoted a spokesman from Family First Medical Group saying, “The test we’re using … is the one most supported by the medical community, including researchers from Stanford…. We’re confident in its safety and results. Overall, they seem to be very accurate.”
What are those Illinois tests saying? “That’s what Pritzker isn’t releasing. Reliance on antibody testing by i by individuals has been challenged because the testing has a high error rate, producing many false positives in particular. The Federal Drug Administration has warned about those inaccuracies and said not to use the tests as a “sole” basis for diagnosis of the virus, although it recommends continued use of the tests. But there’s a critical distinction here between an individual relying on the tests and the broader empirical value of what the tests indicate about general immunity levels. Adjustments to reflect the error rates can be made for broader research purposes, and that’s the key.”
As to why Pritzker refuses to publish the data, according to Gannon: “Maybe he thinks it’s his place to take it upon himself to protect individuals from their own misuse of the testing. On the other hand, if results here are consistent with New York, Florida, other states and what those Stanford researchers say, projections would undoubtedly be far rosier, and Pritzker’s recent extension of stay-at-home rules would become more controversial. And Pritzker seems unconcerned about distinguishing the tests known to be inaccurate from those who claim to be accurate, such as Abbott Labs’.”
Illinois should be collecting data and publishing antibody test results just as other states are.
Scrubbing hands is good, but scrubbing key data isn’t.