Biology is the science of complexity. From the grossest metabolic mechanisms that fuel your brain to the sophisticated learning processes that nurture your mind, the science of life is obsessively composed of feedback loops and layers of stacked emergent systems that, if you look at it, we are They allow us to understand the world if we receive adequate training. It is the logical consequence that the body and the mind – which is nothing more than a piece of the body – did not emerge from the skill of an engineer, but from biological evolution, a system of adaptation to the environment based entirely on repetition. with variations: genes, modules, cells, vertebrae and ribs and columns of the cerebral cortex, the seat of thought.
A biologist, therefore, will not be too surprised that a vaccine is in the process of being approved, because those self-allusive loops underlie the life sciences. I suspect that this process will not surprise a linguist or a mathematical logician either, but the rest of the reading population will surely need an explanation. It’s about the following.
Natural polio has been almost eradicated from the world. As reported Aisling Irwin for ‘Nature’, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world that continue to register cases. The reason for this success is the global vaccination campaigns against polio, coordinated mainly by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But perfection does not exist in any science, and in biology less than in any. The polio vaccine consists, like almost all others since Jenner and Pasteur, of an attenuated polio virus. This venerable technique has two enormous advantages: that the virus is whole or little less, and that therefore it exposes all its components (antigens, in the jargon) to our always suspicious immune system. And that often the attenuated version is still capable of replicating itself, thus prolonging its presence indefinitely and continuing to stimulate antibody production for very long periods, ideally for life.
But, as a good living being, the attenuated virus can evolve, and that is what happened a few years ago. While natural polio has almost disappeared, the version that has evolved from the attenuated virus is spreading across the south of the planet. It is causing polio not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the natural virus still circulates, but also in Yemen, the Philippines, Malaysia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast and a dozen other countries, mostly African. Only 460 cases have been recorded in the world so far in 2020, and the vaccine has saved many thousands of children from lifelong paralysis. But that’s 460 more cases than we would like. That is why the WHO is going to rush to authorize the new anti-vaccine vaccine, designed to eradicate the virus that we have designed ourselves. Whoever believes that this should not be known has no idea of biology, the science of complexity.