Drosten podcast in a new format: “You don’t know what makes a superspreader special”


From Kai Stoppel

Are there people who are more contagious than others? One of the big questions of the pandemic – in a new edition of the NDR Corona podcast, virologist Sandra Ciesek speaks of a “blind spot”. Still, there are indications of what could make a difference.

Even more than nine months after the global coronavirus pandemic broke out, many questions about the virus remain unanswered. Are there people who are more contagious than others? Which may become so-called super spreaders due to biological characteristics and infect more people than is the case on average? This and other questions arose in the current one Corona-Podcast des NDR Sandra Ciesek, head of the Institute for Medical Virology at the University Hospital Frankfurt.

And Ciesek, who has her first appearance in the popular format and will take turns with the Charité virologist Christian Drosten on a weekly basis, has to admit to the question about superspreading: “That is still a blind spot. We do not yet know exactly what makes the super spreader. ” whether there are “really individual people, or whether it is not the circumstances. For example the space,” says Ciesek. “It is noticeable that these superspreading events were mostly indoor events, that certainly also plays a big, big role. “

Infection phase makes a difference

However, the behavior of infected people can have an impact on how many other people they infect: Like how many close contacts someone has. And whether people are more likely to stay at home when they notice that they are getting sick, or whether they continue andnter people go. And there are also anatomical features that could increase the risk of infection, says Ciesek. “The famous wet pronunciation could play a role here.” It also makes a difference in which phase of the infection an infected person is. “If he is recently infected, we assume that the infection is higher than if he has been infected for many days.”

Another mystery of the coronavirus pandemic is the role of children who cut “not are seriously ill or severely affected by this infection, “as Ciesek confirms. Parents and paediatricians in the early cold season could face particular difficulties in the light of the fact that colds – a common disease in young children – could also indicate a corona infection. “The becomes very difficult for parents to distinguish. ” A study by the Robert Koch Institute on day-care centers, however, showed that it makes a difference whether a cold is the only symptom in children or just one of several – in the latter case, the probability of being positive was significantly higher.

What to do if the child has a cold?

So what should you do if your child has a cold? “That’s really not easy to answer, “there Ciesek, who is herself a mother. “Well I would watch them for a day and see where it goes.” However, she also emphasizes that the number of corona cases tested positive in Germany is currently very low – so the probability that the child has “one of the other hundred viruses” that lead to respiratory infections is certainly higher.

Differentiating between different infections based on their symptoms is “totally difficult,” says Ciesek. Only a laboratory test would bring clarity. There is an innovation in autumn: the multiplex PCR. “That means you take a smear and can then test different pathogens at once in the laboratory – not one after the other, but in parallel.” In addition, the currently widespread use of masks, hand hygiene and cough labels in autumn and winter could, in addition to protection against corona, also ensure that certain other infectious diseases are reduced. An older study from Hong Kong gives her “a little hope,” said Ciesek.

AHA rules drove back other viruses as well

In 2003, when Sars – also a coronavirus – was rampant, the Hong Kong scientists compared the number of respiratory infections with that of previous years. For fear of being infected, most people in Asia followed the so-called AHA rules at the time, said Ciesek. The question was, “How did that affect other viruses?” The data for four pathogens, including that of the flu, were compared. “It has been seen that the behavior has resulted in these infections all going down significantly over the months,” said Ciesek.

“I do think that the AHA rules will make other virus infections less likely.” Nevertheless, it is very important that the risk groups get vaccinated. The proposal to vaccinate all children against the flu is “certainly a good idea”, but only if the vaccine is sufficient.

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