‘I was appalled to see the Prime Minister making such comments’: AU of T epidemiologist on immune debt myth and the real reason why everyone gets sick
Colin Furness debunks popular theories and explains how Covid-19 may be weakening our immune systems in the long run
If you have children in your home, chances are they’ve spent the past few months with a runny nose, fever, barfies, or worse. It’s obsessed with fashion. You’ve probably heard that “immune debt” is to blame. There’s just one problem. “That’s completely wrong,” says Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Department of Informatics, who believes Covid infections, not public health measures, are responsible for weakened immune systems. Here he explains why.
It feels like the whole city is sniffing or getting worse over the last few weeks. Is the tridemic something we could have predicted?
It is predictable to see higher viral rates during this time of year when people spend more time in shared air. However, the severity of the illness was unexpected. What has happened in the last few months cannot be said to have been predictable.The Covid we are dealing with today is not the Covid it used to be.The virus has changed the game. This is what viruses do to be successful. They must figure out how to trick people’s immune systems through mutations, as new Kraken variants have. increase. We can also reinfect people by finding ways to interfere with the immune system. This is what measles does, and it’s increasingly looking like what’s happening with Covid.The virus is harming the immune system, so yearly mainstays such as respiratory syncytial virus and influenza are much worse. doing.
I’ve heard many people say that the flu was much worse than their experience with COVID-19. But are you saying Covid is to blame?
exactly. If someone has had a bad flu recently, he must have had Covid in the last eight months or so. The same goes for youngsters, and the amount of severe RSV she’s seen this season.
After spending two years wearing a mask, I thought it was just a weakened immune system.
This notion of deferred forgiveness or “forgiveness of debt” has become very popular. Last month, even the prime minister was behind the podium saying mask-wearing and public health measures were all to blame for sick children. I understand why the public finds this plausible because it works. If you don’t practice most skills, they will rust. This line of thinking makes a lot of sense, but the problem is that our immune system is not a muscle or a skill.
what kind of situation is that?
A metaphor I’ve used is to imagine our immune system as a picture book. Get a snapshot of every pathogen you’ve encountered so you can recognize the next bad guy. This is how our immune system fights back. The photos haven’t been seen in years so they don’t fade. They sit there until they are needed. As viruses mutate, they try to disguise themselves to avoid detection. But in the case of Covid, the virus has punctured, faded, and worn photos, making it less and less useful as a tool for identifying other viruses. Instead of immunity debt, we should think of immunity theft.
Where does your theory fit, from educated guesses to proven scientific facts?
This is not my theory. Anthony Leonardi, an American immunologist, has led the idea that Covid is suppressing immunity. He first introduced this premise over a year before him, but the evidence has grown since then. That’s how science works. You have a theory and you collect evidence to support or refute it. And in the case of indemnification debt, there is no proof. You’ve probably heard this theory called “double cohorts”. This means that now for the first time he’s been exposed to RSV for her two years’ worth of infants, but that’s already happening in the fall of 2021. And the theory does not explain. Why do children get sick?
And is there immunity theft?
That’s what a lot of the evidence points to. Last year, I started tracking pediatric hospitalization rates in the United States, which were very high due to the Omicron wave.I was afraid we’d have a similar situation here in Canada, where the health care system couldn’t handle the stress. We were glad that we were, or at least partially wrong. Did it record numbers of RSV in fall 2021 and winter 2022. This year we had a low overall infection rate, but instead we had an alarming number of very sick children. what happened? What is the difference between this season and last season? The answer is that while young people were generally just beginning to get Covid last year, by the time RSV broke out this year, the majority of young people had already had Covid. may have evolved in
You mentioned evidence. Do you have any research to back up what you’re saying?
There is a study looking at how Covid causes T-cell depletion. We now know that viruses can directly infect T cells (protective cells that detect infection and help the immune system defend itself), but this was previously unknown.There was also study It was conducted by a group of pediatric specialists from several American hospitals and looked at three groups of babies. Sounds bad because the first group had her RSV and Covid at the same time and had a very high viral load. The second group had both RSV and Covid at the same time and had a low viral load, so that doesn’t seem too bad. The third group was a baby who had RSV and previously he had recovered from Covid. It was this last group that needed ventilation. But it was a small study. More participants are needed to get consistent results. And, of course, it may be a big coincidence, but it’s horrifyingly consistent with this idea of harming the immune system.
Some experts say that the RSV threat is a thing of the past and that the flu appears to be on the decline. Doesn’t that suggest that the situation is improving?
The RSV season is like clockwork. From late autumn he arrives through December, so the fact that interest rates are falling tells us nothing. Influenza rates may be declining at the moment, but flu is a very slippery customer. I think we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.The flu can be really ugly if you have immune-damaged babies and small children. One thing to watch out for is fungal infections. This is not much of a problem in healthy populations, but can be very exacerbated when dealing with populations with weakened immune systems.
Yet even the Prime Minister and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer have said: masks are part of the problemDoes that alone make you want to scream?
I was horrified to see the Prime Minister make such a statement. And shortly after, he was in a mall, pressing his face against children who weren’t wearing masks. This is the big problem with the misrepresentation of liability indemnification. It encourages people to do the exact opposite of what is necessary to keep everyone safe. I hear people saying that we should all get out there and expose ourselves, but there is no worse strategy than this. I know it’s the same story and people are sick of it, but we should still try not to get Covid. More attention should be paid to avoiding infection with I get it: people are tired and want to get back to the happy normal of 2019. This is very fascinating. I want it too—I don’t want to move away from science to find comfort.