pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

And now to get me banned from the internet: if you really want the pandemic to end I guess what you would want to do is accelerate it into endemic by engineering a highly transmissible variant with few symptoms, release into wild, airborne vaccine

...I am not advocating this :P


re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@cwebber The usual argument for Not Doing This No Really Seriously is that live viruses (or bacteria) released into the general environment have a boringly predictable habit of spreading and Continuing To Evolve, often in hard-to-predict ways.

It's a bit like the rationale against use of weapons of mass destruction such as fire or chemicals: once they're done going in the direction you pointed them in (if they in fact go there at all), they've got a nasty habit of coming back 'round to you or your'n which even remarkably unenlightened minds have come to respect.

Which is one of the reasons epidemiological response tends toward minimising vectors of transmission (if possible) and/or use of vaccines based on killed or attenuated virus or particles. The mRNA stuff is novel in that RNA (but not virus particles), encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (I had to look that up, thought it might actually be a carrier virus or bacterium) uses the body's own mechanisms to generate antigens which are then recognised as foreign and train the immune system.

So ... yeah, a fast-spreading-but-harmless virus ... might ... seem attractive, but carries some pretty large risks. Even if it doesn't mess with humans, it could affect other species. Most of which are already doing poorly.

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@dredmorbius @cwebber

This has *some* similarity to releasing genetically modified mosquitos, that's being experimented with.


Some similiarities because mosquitos obviously have a very different role in the ecosystem than viruses, so the effects / risks may be quite different.

I'm a complete noob on all this, but intuitively I feel that us humans aren't at a level where we can be confident about the effects.

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@humanetech Modified organisms where the modification specifically targets reproduction is an exception to the rule.

There've been several variants of this tactic, the ones I'm aware of with mosquitos and flies. Most I'm familiar with release sterilised males --- these will mate with females but produce no offspring. The idea is that there will be much useless faffing around, so to speak.

The article you link is a variant on that: the males are fertile, and will produce viable and fertile male offspring, but female offspring will be nonfertile. That's a reproduction-attack one step removed but also with a multiplier on the attack vector itself (viable but altered male offspring will continue the attack).

There are still risks, but they should be reasonably moderate.

An alternate and riskier strategy would be to introduce some superpredator of the mosquito to the environment. Australia's seen this game played out repeatedly with cane toads, foxes, housecats, and other predators released into the wild.

Other practices, such as the use of ladybird beatles and praying mantises for natural pest reduction, seem largely benign.


re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

I can't help thinking about the rabbit population control attempts with the myxomatosis. Plus being from a family that's asthmatic I really hate the idea of making it endemic. Especially as I get older.

Its really not fun (and by not fun I mean utterly catastrophic) for those with auto immune conditions.

@humanetech @cwebber

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@onepict @dredmorbius @humanetech I agree that it's highly anxiety-inducing.

Though two bits to note:
- That pathogen was introduced to *spread increased* harm, rather than reduce it
- Even then, it looks like the course of the disease has been to become less severe over time

I think at this point the only way the pandemic will end WILL be for it to be endemic. Maybe it didn't have to be, but for sociology reasons, everything else failed :\

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

🤔 I wonder at what point it counts as harmless enough. Regardless I think people are going to have to get used to masking up. The global south also needs help with vaccination made available. But that is another conversation. I do know I'm going to be more cautious in the future. At the start of the pandemic it was nice not catching the FOSDEM flue. Folks forget the flu can be deadly.
@dredmorbius @humanetech

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@onepict @cwebber @dredmorbius @humanetech vaccination is how we make it more harmless.

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@dredmorbius Yep! Continued mutation is a serious issue.

I left a previous comment about parasites / viruses having an incentive to not do much damage, but it's really that they have incentive to not be noticed for doing damage...

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@cwebber @dredmorbius No, they actually have an incentive to do the least possible damage while getting the maximal reproduction. It’s kind of farming …

But only once they are endemic (everyone regularly gets it).

While there’s a large population without any immunity, they only have the incentive to spread as fast as possible: don’t be detected to early, infect as many per host as possible.

re: pandemic, terrifying and maybe interesting comment 

@ArneBab @dredmorbius that's what I said (and the previous post I was referring to)

So I already said and agreed that the incentive is to become *less* dangerous. The main thing I'm adding here is that if you start making a modified thing that has properties for higher transmission, it's true that those components *could* mutate into something more dangerous.

But the incentive, always, is to become less so.

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