Unsung Heroes

One thing that struck me with the history of Smallpox is that a similar virus that infects cattle, cowpox, was used to give an effective immunity to smallpox, basically because it was from a very similar family. With Covid-19, SARS and MERS we have a betacoronavirus that infects humans, and the fact that there is in a similar way a virus that affects cattle, Bovine betacoronavirus, is it an unusual case of history possibly repeating itself. Cattle to humans, cattle to humans, is it a possible pattern, as we have an almost symbiotic relationship with such animals, milk, cream, cheese, meat, in the same way that we used to have with goats in the past? The protection that cowpox gave was known at least a generation before it was formalised, Dr Fewster of Gloucester presented a paper in 1765, and Benjamin Jesty, a farmer used it successfully 20 years before Jenner to vaccinate his wife and sons, and spoke of it, saying that it was common folk knowledge from when he was a young boy. It may be that Bovine Betacoronavirus has no effect or may even be more dangerous that Covid-19 with humans, but has it really been tested in a practical way? It may be that Covid-19 variants change too fast for such a simple comparison, Covid-19 is not Smallpox. But there is a possibility that nature may have provided a more broad spectrum remedy, or at least the basis for a genetically modified one that may work better than the more complicated hi-tech versions.

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