October 8, 2020

Painless realization

We love our neighborhood which has pretty much everything we need, including interesting neighbors and fun things to see and wonder about. The pandemic has helped us get out and walk more again, which had fallen off since we lost our dogs to old age a couple years ago. One of our neighbors, who lives a couple blocks away, spells out an obscure word with white rocks on a red rock bed. She changes it every few weeks. Usually the word is timely. Once she spelled “Covefefe”. We walked by tonight to see what it was. “Syndemic”. Turns out a syndemic, or synergistic epidemic, means the extra burden of disease that happens when two or more epidemics in a population exacerbate each other. Examples include SAVA or Substance Abuse, Violence, and AIDS. Another is obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes. Since Covid-19 arrived, the wider medical community has recognized the syndemic that systemic racism, health inequities (access to care, insurance, and treatments) and Covid-19 have created. This can be a model to look at why more minorities are dying from Covid-19.

I also contend that Covid-19 has shone light on another syndemic. Mixing the spread of misinformation (or the Infodemic) with the spread of the coronavirus is deadly and costly for many people. We can talk about some people’s refusal to wear masks as part of it, but I think more of the burden is related to misinformation from leadership and willing followers not to question. This is dangerous and puts more live at risk. We must continue to use reliable sources.

I am also fascinated with what we are learning from this disease. Still less than a year old, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, effects and attacks the body in unexpected ways, which may lead to scientific breakthroughs. The one I am finding most interesting right now is that SARS-CoV-2 seems to block some pain receptors. The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 is known to attach to the ACE2 receptor, but now it is shown to also attach to the neuropilin-1, which is a newly recognized pain receptor.

This finding could explain why nearly half of people with Covid-19 infections spread the disease without knowing they have it. They have no or very mild symptoms. Their pain receptors are blocked so they don’t feel sick. This would make for very efficient spread, if this turns out to be the case. We have seen lots of examples of spreading the virus with minimal to no symptoms, so it makes sense.

The other reason this is interesting is that this is a new pain receptor being studied, which may lead to new treatment options for pain. Plus, it has potential to be another target to treat Covid-19 infections.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and be careful to your information sources.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.