VOICES ANAND NEELAKANTAN SHINIE ANTONY RAVI SHANKAR AMAR PATNAIK NEIL MCCALLUM MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT SEPTEMBER 27 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 The Great Immunity Bazaar VIRUS PREVENTION: Myths and Realities MYTH Handwashing ‘kills’ viruses Anti-coronavirus products that claim to have immunity-boosting properties are flying off the shelves. Are they giving us the power to fight the virus? What works and what doesn’t. By V KUMARA SWAMY I t probably was a no-brainer to the people at Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Research Institute, Panchayanpur, Uttarakhand, when they were told to work on an indigenous Ayurvedic antidote for the coronavirus. Since the virus was affecting weakened immune systems more, the obvious answer must have been, why not make a drug that contains Ayurvedic ingredients such as ashwagandha, giloy, tulsi and rudanti, and throw in a few minerals? The result was Coronil. Ramdev called it a breakthrough and claimed that successful clinical trials were conducted on 15-65-year-olds affected by the virus who were cured by the medicine. Soon Patanjali walked a few steps back, saying that it had never claimed that Coronil was a cure against Covid-19 but it was an effective immunity booster against the virus. The ‘Coronil Kit’ now comes with the tag line, ‘Covid-19 Immunity Booster Kit.’ The Madras High Court recently rapped the company’s knuckles for “exploiting the fear and panic among the general public by projecting a cure for the coronavirus,” and fined it `10 lakh. As for the kit itself, it has been a smash hit. Patanjali claimed that it was selling over 10 lakh kits per day each priced at `545. , Immunity is the holy grail of the Covid-19 age, which some medical scientists predict will last two or more years, or perhaps forever, hibernating like a beast of prey until some act of nature wakens it to strike again. The pharma companies aren’t complaining. The immunology drugs market is projected to grow from $65.1 billion in 2016 to $113 billion in 2023, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2 percent. The body’s only defence against a virus and other pathogens is the immune system, the most complex network of cells and molecules outside our brain. They deal with viral intrusions as shapechangers, warriors, honey traps and provocateurs, and even produce calm. The medical world has never seen a virus so complicated as the current coronavirus nicknamed SARS-CoV-2. It is sly, changes form and acts unpredictably across neural systems, age and geography . ON THE IMMUNITY BATTLEGROUND Immunity is of two types— the innate and the adaptive. Innate immunity is dependent on a person’s genetic constitution, which he or she has inherited from their parents. Imagine the body as a battlefield and the body’s airways as the scene of the first attack. The innate immune system contains white blood cell soldiers called B-cells, which are the first line of defence. The body’s intelligence system kicks in when it senses enemy molecules and launches proteins called cytokines. They activate the B-cells to engulf, digest and launch a barrage of chemical warfare, which incidentally releases more cytokines. Inferons interfere with the replication of viruses. The result—inflammation that proves the innate system is working. But SARS-CoV-2 is a resilient enemy The problem . with System 1 is that it goes for broad-based attacks while this requires specific areas to target. The adaptive (or acquired) system goes into action mode. The sleeper network of chemicals and proteins alerts the T-cells, which have antibodies of the specific size and shape of the virus. These cells are special- ists with different skills. Each one is like a laser-guided torpedo with different receptors on its surface that recognise specific antigens. The missiles are released in the form of antibodies, which bind to a specific antigen, putting the virus in its crosshairs. The virus’s armour is accurately neutralised. IMMUNITY ISN’T BULLETPROOF It’s a perfect war plan. Then what’s going wrong with the immune system’s anti-Covid battle plan? Its time and memory Once the virus is . demolished, most of the mobilised warrior cells back off and die. Except for a tiny fraction of commandos who stay back in the vital organs and patrol the bloodstream. These seasoned soldiers rely on memory and counter-attack a fresh raid immediately because they remember what to do. The difference is that Covid is a guerilla. It delays the relaunch of the commandos by stopping the production of interferons—molecules that block viral replication in the first stage. This delay gives the invading virus a small time window for it to multiply its population unnoticed before the trip wires aren’t activated. These delays have a multiplier effect causing both innate and adaptive sections to lag behind. Different persons, regardless of age or health, respond differently to the SUPPLEMENTS MANUAL TAKE Probiotics: Look for LA-14 Lactobacillus Acidophilus probiotic which is the top immune-boosting strain Zinc: 20mg Vitamin C: At least 300 mg Vitamin D3: Helps lower risk of respiratory infections Vitamin B: These vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for healthy immune response AVOID Glorified Vitamin C supplements, which contain high dosages of only Vitamin C Supplements without probiotics Unproven vitamins and minerals Supplements using sugar/sweeteners since sugar suppresses the immune system Extremely low or high price: Do proper research before buying virus. Since coronavirus affects the respiratory tract initially, one patient could’ve inhaled a large dose of it in the beginning unlike another. Their innate immune system could’ve weakened by old age or chronic illness. Sometimes the levels of T-cells start diminishing. All these open the gates to the lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal and nervous systems. The immune system doesn’t stop working, which causes a serious backlash. It’s designed to explode with maximum force, and destroy cells and release harmful chemicals to kill invaders. But when the virus escalates its offensive, the immune system will react equally furiously, thereby causing collateral damage to the body This protracted . uncontrolled violence could kill people who are already cured. The immune system is engineered to counter three broad groups of pathogens: viruses and microbes that infect cells, bacteria and fungi clinging on outside cells, and parasitic worms. Each group has proprietary cells and molecules which will be activated during an invasion. Covid-19 being virus-caused, only the first should be switched on. But all three are activated in serious cases, because the immune system has gone amok. Doctors call it cytokine storm—“a hyper inflammation caused by the body’s immune chemicals in response to certain infections like Covid-19 when the immune system has unpredictably gone awry This is happening even . in persons who are otherwise healthy This hyperactive . immune system as a reaction to Covid-19 has, in fact, led to many deaths during the pandemic.” Dr Aviral Roy, Consultant, Critical Care, Medica Superspecialty Hospital, Kolkata, calls our immune response a “very delicately balanced and beautiful system.” Any imbalance can cause havoc in the body and lead to complications like multi-organ failures seen in Covid-19-infected patients. “It’s such a new virus that our immune systems Turn to page 2 Reality: It doesn’t. Viruses aren’t alive, so they can’t be killed. Soap sticks to the membrane of viruses, pries them away and renders them harmless. It means microbes can be rinsed away with water. When you wash your hands, you are literally washing off the viruses that can make you sick. After you have washed your hands thoroughly, dry them thoroughly too. It is harder for viruses to transfer from dry hands. MYTH Hand sanitiser is more effective than hand washing Reality: Wrong. Hand sanitisers with 60 percent alcohol destroy microbes, stopping pathogens from transferring from hands to the mouth, nose and eyes. First, remove visible dirt and debris before using sanitiser. Having said this, hand sanitiser is practical but not as effective at removing microbes as hand washing. MYTH Exercise weakens the immune system Reality: Exercise boosts immunity against germs because it boosts cell turnover in your body and stimulates the production of immune cells. Stick to walking, jogging, or swimming. Move your body daily to keep your immune system in shape. Source: https://askthescientists.com
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