On May 24th the website of Spain’s El Pais newspaper published an article by the author, Daniel Media Vera, about the mystery of the “super-transmitter” in the outbreak and the significance of the research behind it. The article is now excerpted as follows: between 1900 and 1907, Mary Mullen, an Irish chef working in New York, spread typhus to dozens of people, but she did not show any symptoms herself.
She was taken to Riverside Hospital in suburban New York for three years and discharged from the hospital, where she disappeared from the public eye. In 1915, there was another outbreak of typhoid at Sloan E. Sloan Hospital in Manhattan, with 25 people suffering from typhus and two deaths. An investigation found that Mary Brown, a chef at the hospital, had actually changed her name to Mary Mullen, who was also nicknamed “Mary of Typhoid” by the media.
“Mary typhoid” was the first and most famous typhoid “patient zero” and super-spreader. Similar phenomena occur in many epidemics, such as the Ebola virus, HIV, SARS, etc.
Without social alienation or necessary protection, each infected person can spread the pathogen to at least three people. But this is the average. In fact, as with SARS, the normal situation is that most infected people are rarely transmitted to others or not at all, while some infected people are infected with many people. A recent study by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that 80 per cent of cases in the current new coronavirus pandemic were transmitted by nearly 10 per cent of those infected. In Spain, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University Hospital of Galicia, half of all confirmed cases may be behind these super-infected people.
The team, led by Antonio Salas and Federico Martin Torres, looked at mutations from 5,000 viral genome samples in an effort to reconstruct pathogen behavior at the source. Martin Torres said: “Among the positive factors we have observed is the discovery of little change in the viral genome, which is stable, which is good news for the effectiveness of the vaccine being developed.” “Another finding in the study is that there are bottlenecks in virus diversity, which can infer the existence of super-transmitters.
Salas points out that the current focus is on identifying these super-transmitters and analyzing their biological and social behavioral characteristics. At present, there is no extensive study to determine the identity of these persons and the environment in which they are transmitted. For example, they may be people who have a higher viral load due to immune system characteristics but have not developed symptoms for a long time and continue to spread pathogens to others. In addition, the combination with other diseases may also increase the ability of new coronaviruses to spread. Similar conditions have been found in people who also have herpes in addition to HIV.
Gonzalez Candelas, an expert at the Valencia Community Health and Biomedical Research Foundation, says it’s important to identify these super-infectors and gain insight into their particularities, even though it’s easier to identify the characteristics of a risky environment than to identify individual characteristics.
Salas believes that the idea of holding those infected accountable must be eliminated. In addition, sketching out the characteristics of the super-infector can provide us with an understanding of the epidemic that is lacking now. “Knowledge sometimes doesn’t require a specific goal, and when we learn more about the problem from the least desirable places, there are usually solutions. He pointed out. (Compilation/Han Chao)