When will the COVID-19 epidemic end in Russia? Are there ways to strengthen the immune system when everyone around is sick? Or prepare the body for potential contact with the virus in advance? With these questions, “RG” turned to the academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the immunologist scientist Valery Chereshnev.
Valery Alexandrovich, when, in your opinion, will the COVID-19 epidemic end in Russia?
Valery Chereshnev: How long did the epidemic in China last? From December to April – 4.5 months. We started in March. So, we can assume it will end in mid-July. Provided that it is possible to localize the sources of infection, as in China.
What is going on here? Cars go, people go – many communicate in parks, squares. What are we doing! After all, everyone already knows about the asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. This means that people may not realize that they are carriers of infection. But many have elderly relatives. People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk of infection.
Do not shake the body!
So, it’s time to train the immune system. Maybe there is an express method known to you?
Valery Chereshnev: There is no such method. It is not possible to quickly increase the level of immune defense.
After all, what is immunity? This is the body’s ability to defend itself against everything alien and dangerous – substances and cells. I will say this: it is an ongoing process, the constant creation of a healthy lifestyle. Only a way of life we prepare a meeting with any pathogen.
Normal nutrition, sports on the principle of necessary and sufficient, fresh air, good sleep – the main doctor, as little stress as possible. And the actual addition to this list today is a minimum of contacts. You will observe these rules – and the grateful response of the immune system will not take long.
But count on the magic effect of adaptogens or a saving dose of an immunomodulator.
Valery Chereshnev: Immunomodulators are immunocorrectors of a compromised immune system. They are prescribed on the basis of an immunogram made in the laboratory (a comprehensive analysis of the state of the immune system).
And if the doctor determined the presence of impaired immunity, then the use of immunocorrectors is justified. And if there is no such diagnosis, the question arises: why take them? How are vitamins? Why overexcite the immune system, which already painfully responds to all the contaminants entering the body.
It must be remembered that a reaction of overexcitation will necessarily be followed by a reaction of exhaustion. And exhaustion – this is secondary immunodeficiency: if at that time something provoking acts on the body, then the immune system may not be able to cope with the defense and the person will become ill. What do skiers suffer after exhausting races? Colds, flu, acute respiratory infections. Because the immune system, powerfully mobilized for the duration of the competition, then reduced its functions. Experienced coaches and athletes know: after serious competitions – no drafts, no additional stresses.
Lemons, BCG, Hunger
Are there any products that strengthen the immune system? Lemons are now actively snapping up, ginger has risen in price …
Valery Chereshnev: These are all adaptogens: ginseng, pantocrine, ginger – stimulants of the immune system. But it’s important to understand this: if you take them on a regular basis and in normal doses, then you will well support the functioning of the immune system.
And if you do it shockingly – in a short period of time and in large doses, then again you will achieve what I already said: excitement – exhaustion, surge, explosion – fading. Of course, this is a consequence of our everyday errors and the expectation of a miracle.
What if hunger, sex or alcohol possess such miraculous power?
Valery Chereshnev: Hunger – yes, but healing. If a person has a stomach ulcer, then this “miracle” can have sad consequences, for example, an exacerbation of an ulcer.
Sex – why not? This is one of the varieties of relieving psychological stress. At a certain age, a person has such a need: this is a powerful discharge, so for the immune system it is an unconditional benefit. But the strong harm from strong alcohol: it weakens the immune system and can contribute to poor health.
There is a version that the BCG vaccine gives immunity against COVID-19. What do you think?
Valery Chereshnev: BCG (from the French Bacillus Calmette-Guérin – Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) is a powerful shake for the body. This tuberculosis vaccine, invented in France over 100 years ago, is a powerful irritant to the entire immune system. Therefore, I share the opinion that BCG, while protecting the body from bacterial and viral infections, strengthens the immune system as a whole.
What is the main difficulty in fighting the new coronavirus?
Valery Chereshnev: The uncontrolled use of antibiotics has made bacteria and viruses immune to them.
In the large intestine of man more than 10 thousand bacteria and more than 10 thousand viruses. This is the so-called our microbiome, whose weight reaches one and a half to two kilograms. So this microbiome is important for a number of processes, including immune ones. Deviation of its composition from the qualitative and quantitative norms leads to the development of various pathological conditions.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, and viruses that hide in the intestinal epithelial cells are unattainable for antibiotics. And it turns out this ratio: there are fewer bacteria – more viruses. In modern medicine, however, the treatment paradigm does not change and the era of antibiotics continues.
Of course, antibiotics are needed, but they kill not only pathogenic bacteria, but also saprophytic, that is, the body needs. Therefore, we say: the threat of viruses will increase until we create reliable anti-virus products. This applies to human viruses. A reservoir of coronavirus, according to modern concepts, are bats.
If the virus mutates, is there any point in a vaccine that is now being developed around the world?
Valery Chereshnev: Of course, a vaccine is needed. A vaccine is prevention, it is a drug that provides activation of acquired immunity.
If SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, like other infections spreading by airborne droplets, appears like a flu every three to four years, then a vaccine is needed to reconfigure the immune system against the corresponding virus. The COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the disease – to prepare the body for a meeting with a strong virulent virus. But the vaccine, at best, will be created in a year.
But you seem to have come close to solving this issue?
Valery Chereshnev: For 10 years we have been studying the Sendai virus, which is non-hazardous to humans and actively stimulating the immune system. It is an interfering or antagonistic virus against influenza viruses.
Employees of the Military Medical Academy, the innovative enterprise Center of Advanced Radiation Medical and Biological Technologies (St. Petersburg) and our Institute of Immunology and Physiology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Ekaterinburg) jointly established in the experiment that there is a phenomenon of antagonistic interactions (interference) of pathogenic viruses and non-pathogenic Sendai virus.
This is the rationale for the use of “protective” viruses for the treatment of highly pathogenic viral infections, including, in our opinion, coronavirus. We appealed to the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation to support and accelerate the testing of these studies for coronavirus infection.
Now the situation as a whole is very difficult: the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a dangerous enemy, mortality from COVID-19 is increasing. Elderly people and patients with chronic diseases — hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and oncology — are especially vulnerable. But we can control this enemy and limit his progress in the country. The main thing now is to stop the spread of infection, so we must disconnect, isolate, so that later, after defeating the virus, unite again.
Valery Alexandrovich Chereshnev. Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. President of the Russian Scientific Society of Immunologists. Scientific supervisor of the Institute of Immunology and Physiology, Ural Branch of RAS.
A specialist in the field of fundamental medicine and immunology, who has created new research areas – immunophysiology and immunopathophysiology.
He studies ecology and immunity, the immune mechanisms of inflammation, stress, cardiovascular pathology, tumors, AIDS, radiation and mechanical damage.
Author and co-author of more than 800 scientific papers.
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