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Contra Paul Christiano on Sex

How would horizontal transfer even work when you go from a prokariot with millions of base pairs of genetic material to a eukariot with billions of base pairs and all the complexity of RNA splicing?

Covid 2/11: As Expected

It also applies to the stock market where buying an index fund that just invests in everything leads to fairly regular positive returns.

Making Vaccine

That's only for raw materials.  Actual production seems to have involved a fair amount of skilled labor per dose which probably dominates the $2 figure.  A commercial vaccine can automate that but then you've got lots of development costs as well as logistics and compliance to worry about.  I wouldn't expect that this vaccine is especially cheap.

What evidence will tell us about the new strain? How are you updating?

One thing that makes this disease hard to reason about is the high k.  That is, most people infect a very small number of people but some people infect large numbers. When case numbers are less than a thousand we should't expect a strong signal regardless of the underlying infectivity of the new strain.  This is evidence against it being significant but I fear its not very strong evidence.

Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over

For me an important factor is that we have three different pints of data that suggest the new strain is more infectious.  First, it's rapidly replacing the existing strain in areas where it is preset.  Second, those areas are seeing surges of infections that don't occur in other areas.  Third, it seems like individuals infected with the new strain have 3 or 4 times the viral load of individuals with the previous strain - which would neatly explain higher transmissiblility. I'm going with an 85% chance that this is genuinely more transmissible.

I'm not at all sure our current wave will fade before the new strain starts making an impact so I'm 50% on two waves.

 Higher peak viral load does correlate with more severe symptoms but not that strongly.  I think it's unlikely that this strain is less virulent than the previous one because most transmission happens before symptom onset and there isn't as much selective pressure for that as their would be for a virus with more normal kinematics.  Post herd immunity there'll probably be selective pressure for longer incubation periods and that might lead to less virulence, but that's further down the road.  Because most severe disease happens when viral load has gone down I figure it's most likely that how well the virus is able to fool the host's immune system causes both peak viral load and severe disease but I'm very unsure about this.  Still, this is only a half order of magnitude in max viral load and that varies by many orders of magnitude between individuals and is still only weakly correlated with disease severity so even if it has an effect I don't expect it will be large.

What are objects that have made your life better?

More umbrellas. I keep a big one at home and small folding umbrellas at work and in my backpack. They're relatively cheap and sometimes you unexpectedly really need one.

Jimrandomh's Shortform

Do we have any good sense of the extent to which researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology are flying out across China to investigate novel pathogens or sites where novel pathogens might emerge?

April Coronavirus Open Thread

On TWiV 595 they did an interview with a doctor who said he'd been able to get the survival rate of intubated patients up to 50% by using proning, though I don't recall them going into the details.

Taking Initial Viral Load Seriously

From my understanding of how the learned immune response works an infection has to grow to a certain size before it really starts to kick in. That would tend to suggest that, if a dose is enough to cause an infection in the first place, danger will remain roughly constant up to some inflection point before starting to become less dangerous.

Of course as doses go down the chance that the innate immune system cleans it up or none of the viruses manage to find an ACE2 receptor goes up. But in those cases you won't be training the immune system.

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