Russian officer FDA: ‘Coronavirus is not very harmful, mortality may be overestimated’

Why the virus was less dangerous than expected, and whether to gradually phase out strict quarantine measures, in an interview with the Observer said the doctor of biological Sciences, Deputy Director for science, division of vaccine Administration on quality control of medicines and foods in the United States (Fоod and Drug Administration), Professor Konstantin Chumakov.

Русскоязычный сотрудник FDA: 'Коронавирус не очень вреден, смертность может быть завышена'

Photo: Shutterstock

In fact, the number of patients with coronavirus infection in the world could reach 100 million people, which means that the proportion of deaths is much lower. This is very good news, which means that the coronavirus is not the same evil as first thought. Most viruses, exchanging for other populations, over time, weaken. Besides the frantic pace continued testing of new drugs and not just vaccines, but prepared medicines.

Coronavirus in fact, so terrible to mankind, or is it exaggerated by the world panic?

Themselves of many coronaviruses, they have been known for a long time, most of them cause just a slight cold. Many viruses can jump from animals, which they may not cause big problems for people.

All human viruses once appeared in the animal reservoir, and then moved on to humans. And if in the human population has no immunity, the virus spreads easily – like fire on dry hay. When a significant portion of people have been ill, it is difficult to spread. People have population immunity, and the virus becomes very dangerous.

But as those who sought medical help?

By definition, this is severe cases. If you just cough, you’re in the hospital do not go, and so will remain outside the statistics. Now there are methods to see a person in the blood of protective antibodies. It turned out that the number of those who have them, approximately 50 to 80 times more than it says official statistics about patients. This is very good news. It means the virus is not so evil as it seemed at first. Even now, despite the fact that the epidemic has been raging for two months, the same US the number of deaths is still less than from seasonal flu. So, the scale of the pandemic should be considered in the comparison.

Don’t want to downplay the significance of all quarantine measures and risk. Again, this virus is new, it still has not adapted… And in General, all viruses by going to a new population, first the threat, but gradually become schadaschie. If a virus kills its host, or sends it to the hospital, he falls out of circulation and cannot be transferred to another. And those are only transmitted viruses that his master is not killed, so that it can continue to infect others. Therefore, any new virus is slowly becoming less dangerous. It is a fundamental biological law.

If the virus is not as dangerous, why so many countries are under quarantine?

These measures were taken in the beginning, when it was not clear what we’re dealing with. Because a pandemic could kill not 3%, as shown by the present imperfect statistics, but all 30. Then it would be a complete disaster. During the plague of the XIII century became extinct 30% of Europeans. From the Spanish flu during world war II killed 50 to 100 million people. The disease is a good example of “easing” of new viruses, it appeared and quickly disappeared without any vaccines and medicines. Because there is the variant of the virus, which stopped to kill a man – a Spaniard has become a common seasonal flu. Unpleasant, but nobody is frightened.

Therefore, quarantine measures are justified. If they are not adopted, I filled all the hospitals. Would have started uncontrolled epidemic with large population losses. Quarantine smoothed the epidemic. Even in new York, the center of the spread of the virus in the United States, the hospital was not crowded, and the number of new infected is gradually reduced.

Europe is also starting to open. Is this correct?

Absolutely. For example, Germany, Switzerland have already passed the peak of new cases there is about 10-20 times less than at the highest point. But Sweden and UK have not yet reached it partly because of their wrong strategies. Sweden decided not to close. There believed that population immunity will develop faster. But it’s worth the deaths of many citizens. It doesn’t seem right even from a moral and ethical point of view.

The who says the virus will move towards Eastern Europe, Africa, Central and South America.

It’s possible, but not obvious. There is a very clear relationship between mortality and national income. The richer the country the more cases it. In poor and underdeveloped countries of the coronavirus there is no or very little. Africa belongs to this category. In different parts of different dynamics.

By the way, why?

There are different theories. For example, in low-income countries the traditionally high incidence of TB, so there used BCG vaccine. It causes a nonspecific protective effect against a variety of other diseases. It is a known fact. According to one theory, that is why such countries are protected from the coronavirus. Another theory argues that people live in a rather dirty and often susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, resulting in their innate immunity is constantly training.

Another factor in poor countries, quite different age structure of the population. Most are young, and they hurt a little and easy. In countries with income dominated by the elderly, they get sick more often. In addition, rich countries are much more open, and the population more mobile and more dynamic.

And of course, there are more tested for coronavirus, so the stats there is more sound. In fact, in Ukraine, the incidence is lower than in NYC per capita.

In General, in Eastern Europe the incidence is also much lower than in the West.

The experts concern the situation in Russia, where a rapidly growing number of cases, the Russians themselves will soon begin to infect the Chinese. Plus RF can give biased data on the number of infected.

Now the stats are bad everywhere. For objective reasons, it is very difficult to collect all information, not enough test sets. I don’t know why, but now the incidence in Russia is three times higher than in Ukraine.

There’s still Belarus, where there is no quarantine.

Yes, they have the situation will be worse than in Russia. Maybe because they are closer to Europe or because they do not impose strict quarantine measures.

I think China did not diminish the number of infected and fatal cases?

China, too, could manipulate unpleasant data. Countries with an authoritarian regime always tend to distort information about their problems. Certainly, there were many unrecorded cases, although the exact facts we do not possess. But whether it is a state strategy. Senior leadership is the height of idiocy to underestimate the looming threat.

How many infected in the world?

While there is no clear data, but at least the official statistics is underestimated by 10 times. According to research by Stanford University, the difference can reach up to 80 times. Here in new York state infected with 260 thousand, but it is estimated that antibodies to this virus are already at 3 million people. So they were already infected. The difference – in 10-12 times. If this proportion is around the world, do not be surprised that the virus has already met about 100 million people.

Can we say that a herd immunity among the human race has already been formed?

He is just beginning to emerge, and this is very good news. Research on amount of antibodies to the virus, we show that it’s not as scary as it might seem at first. The figure for the dead is comparable with mortality from seasonal flu. I heard in new York, if a man died and he had respiratory symptoms, it is recorded in the statistics of deaths from coronavirus, even when tests have been done. Do not rule out that mortality may be overestimated. You have to wait until they give us reliable numbers, otherwise you can build any theory.

The peak of the pandemic in the world passes or just meet him?

According to published reports, has not yet passed. Perhaps we are at the peak. It’s hard for me to judge, take information from publicly available sources. But in every country its different gather somewhere to hide, somewhere fanning, somewhere not testing people.

If the summer will be a period of respite, what will happen in the fall and winter? The second wave is more dangerous than the first?

We about this virus know almost nothing. Those who say that the second wave will be in the winter, are based on information about the flu. He really seasonal and aktiviziruyutsya in the autumn-winter period. This is due to the weather, the overall resistance of the body, migration of birds, which can carry. But other viruses have seasonality, which is often very strange, epidemiologists are not always able to explain. There are viruses that come every two, three years, and is repeated every year. And how to explain it?

What will happen in the fall or next year, is not known. But we must be prepared, of course. If the second wave will not – it’s just fine.

I understand that you adhere to the optimistic point of view, the virus will become weaker?

The history of the virus proves that it always happens. From the point of view of evolution – it cannot be otherwise. Viruses circulate and change very quickly: how to the best and the worst. It is a fundamental biological law. If the body is not left offspring, so he disappears.

In many countries started to look for a vaccine against coronavirus. It can be ready by the end of the year, for example?

Unlikely. The tests are now, but a vaccine is a drug can be called only when it is proven that it is safe and protects against disease. But this process is very long. First, the drug should be given small number of volunteers, and if all goes well – to give more people and see protects or not.

You need to instill a huge number of people to statistically tell the difference in incidence among those who received vaccine not received.

The incidence of coronavirus in the world is not very big. Every day is fixed just a few new cases per 100 thousand of the population, if any (depending on country). To carry out such test in such circumstances is simply impossible. If you vaccinate a million people in a control group, you can expect all 10 cases. If vaccine efficacy was 50%, then to notice the difference between 10 cases and 5 – very difficult, is statistically unreliable. Often, when a vaccine will take you through the first phase of safety tests, then begin the second phase, and when moving to the third, to test the efficacy in terms of protection against disease – the epidemic has already passed.

But this does not mean that the case was hopeless. If the wave of the epidemic will be to test the drug will be on animals to prove safety for humans.

Normally, a vaccine takes years and years to come. Now, when the whole world and scientists are working hard when everyone wants the vaccine, she will be given the green light, but still it is a question not of months but of years or more.

There is another complication, which causes us to treat it very carefully. There are situations in which the vaccine does not help but makes it worse. Examples are: for healthy people the drug is safe, and for patients with no. You need to go step by step, and until we figured out how to do it quickly.

Maybe people will learn to control the virus?

Only quarantine measures. But then will collapse the entire economy. Idea is to use a nonspecific protective effect, which is given a live vaccine due to the stimulation of innate immunity. For example, protivotuberkuleznoe, which are currently experiencing. We offer testing of live polio vaccine that works well against the flu. They need to check, but there are drugs with proven safety that can be applied even today. I hope this will be a solution until then, until there are reliable vaccines, which will give permanent immunity. But it is only an idea. To prove it, we need tests.

The same applies to the use of BCG?

To an even greater extent. Polio vaccine absolutely safe, but the BCG is not very much. Especially for people with immune system disorders, can be very unpleasant complications. Here in the Soviet Union instilled in everyone, but the vaccine that we received in childhood, most likely, will do nothing. Innate immunity is gradually reduced. This does not mean that, having once BCG you more than anything to not hurt will. Just in the coming months will have a greater resistance to other viruses and bacteria. But to expect that vaccination in childhood will protect you from coronavirus – naive.

I often read that after 10 years, humanity will face a new virus that is much deadlier than this.

We will never get rid of the threat of viral infections. Look at how many new diseases have emerged even in the last 100 years. Tick-borne encephalitis, Ebola, SARS, SARS-2, MERS, pandemic flu… People living in the world of viruses, they are masters in this land, not us. Their the world much more. But people know about them already very much, there is a biotech and vaccine industry. I assure you that next year we will have an effective cure for coronavirus. May be no vaccine, but if the hands to be an effective drug, we can completely relax.

By the way, testing of medications sort successful.

It’s hard to say. Chloroquine, antimalarial, yet data are contradictory. But there are new tools developed on the basis of knowledge of the molecular biology of viruses, they are already tested. Medicines will. Recently in the field of antiviral drugs is just a huge boom. People learned to treat hepatitis C, which was generally incurable. And now the recovery in 99% of cases. Enough to drink the pills for 2-3 months and that’s it. A vaccine against this disease and are unable to create, very difficult. There’s even ideas on how to create it, and the pill is already there.

The interview expresses solely the position of Konstantin Chumakov as a scientist in industry viral vaccines, and not as a representative of FDA (Control on control of food and medicinal products”) and is not the official position of this structure.

As previously wrote ForumDaily:

  • Made in the USA antiviral drug may become standard treatment COVID-19
  • Los Angeles became the first city in the US, where everyone is free to take the test on COVID-19
  • Study: nearly all patients with COVID-19 in new York city share one thing
  • Green tea, marijuana and coronavirus: dispel myths about treatment and risks







Our people