By Rocio Rojas
Peruvian Jorge Cuyubamba Dominguez, an expert in biotechnology and genetic engineering, is part of an ambitious team of scientists in China that has set the goal of finding the universal vaccine against all coronaviruses, including covid-19, as well as SARS and MERS, thus avoiding future epidemics.
A 29-year-old young scientist, Cuyubamba came to this Asian country nine years ago on a scholarship. He has provided services in different institutions such as the Epidemiological Center of the Chinese government and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam; He is currently head of the Department of Human Genome Analysis at the CSPC corporation, specialized in designing anticancer and antiviral formulas.
The call to join a team of about 80 scientists was an honor, he recalls in dialogue with the Andean Agency. In China, with more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, there are more than 60 research groups looking for the cure against coronavirus, almost all private companies working in collaboration with universities. The Chinese government, through the Army, also has a scientific group with the same objective.
Why universal vaccine
Unlike the covid-19 vaccine – which will prevent only SARS-CoV-2, which caused the pandemic – the universal vaccine seeks to prevent all types of coronavirus (there are at least seven that can infect us) and cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The latter have been controlled, but not eradicated.
“It is a vaccine against all kinds of coronaviruses. The objective of the researchers, mainly Chinese, is to end one of the main probable sources of future pandemics, which are closely related to the raising of animals in mass, such as porcine viruses and avian flu, “he explained.
The great ally in research to find the universal vaccine is artificial intelligence. Coronaviruses, Cuyubamba adds, have the peculiarity of mutating very quickly, but, thanks to biological and biochemical algorithms, “we are catching up with the speed of the viral mutation and our programs can mutate at that speed.”
The idea of creating a universal vaccine for coronaviruses is not new. It was raised by the American scientist Jacob Glanville after the milestone of mapping the entire human genome was reached in 2001. The proposal was to update, by algorithms, the antibodies to fight viruses in real time.
The Peruvian scientist highlights that today many functions that are performed within the laboratory can be replicated remotely. “They are made with virtual reality glasses, you can see the biochemical reactions; in many cases, test tubes are no longer necessary because there are now special programs that simulate laboratory conditions and chemical reactions when mixing substances.”
In this way, he says, artificial intelligence allows us to see the processing of biochemicals and the reactions they would produce in humans. In this field, he says, China and the Netherlands have had an impressive development. In this huge multidisciplinary team, the experts’ specialties are diverse: there are bioinformatics engineers, biophysics mathematicians, epidemiologists, virologists, bone marrow transplant surgeons, among others.
And what is its role in research? We ask. Cuyubamba Dominguez explains that she is in charge of analyzing the reaction of coronavirus antigens and their reaction with erythrocytes and white cells in algorithmic real time.
The young scientist estimates that the universal vaccine could be ready in a year and a half, but emphasizes that it is necessary to be careful to avoid adverse effects in humans, since sometimes, in the effort to produce antibodies, they can affect the persons.
“It is something like chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells, but also healthy cells. In some cases we have flaws. These antibodies can also attack healthy cells. It is a double-edged sword. The antibodies are the biochemicals produced by our body to counteract the harmful effects of viruses or bacteria. ”
Parallel to the search for the universal vaccine, the scientific team that makes up our compatriot is on the hunt for the covid-19 vaccine, which, he said, is simpler and could be ready in four or five months without adverse effects and with 99.9% effectiveness. In this case, he commented, tests have already been done on primates and mammals.
“The covid-19 vaccine is simpler, we are already 85% complete and we have yet to see the adverse effects in humans. The tests should be done between 500 to 800 people with different characteristics. We are in that process. 2 or 3 months to see the adverse effects, let’s hope everything goes well. ”
However, he warned, finding the universal vaccine is more important, because “there is no guarantee that after a month of immunization against covid-19, there will be a new outbreak of another type of virus.”
More powerful viruses
In fact, the Peruvian scientist comments that it is necessary “to give more voice to science” to spread not only the dangers to which we are exposed by viruses more harmful than covid-19, but to stop the advance of what he calls ” the alteration of nature. ”
“Today the human being, due to an industrial issue, is altering the life cycles of other living things, of plants. They place antibiotics or chemicals in the physiological system to make them fatter. This causes stress or suffering in animals and, by As a result, new types of viruses can arise as a defense mechanism. While this is theoretical, it is not fully proven, but I support that theory. ”
Who will resist?
Good nutrition and the progressive elimination of junk food will make us more resistant to viruses and diseases in general, says Jorge Cuyubamba. But he especially recommends consuming -intermediately- extract of fruits and vegetables of different colors, on an empty stomach and if possible add lemon, kion and pineapple to give it a pleasant flavor.
“In Peru, a country privileged by variety in agriculture, it is often repeated that fruits and vegetables must be eaten daily, but few people do it. They also drink little water. Instead of water, many people drink soda without knowing that it produces many free radicals (which cause aging and DNA alteration) “.
However, he commented, one of the most serious practices that persists among Peruvians is to eat abundantly until “soaked up.” “We have done a study and we saw that when a person eats like that, it produces stress, even if it doesn’t seem like it. And when there is a lot of stress, the defenses go down. Eating until the stomach is well filled places us in the category of vulnerable people. We have to stop when we feel a little full. ”
Mask and face masks
As long as neither the covid-19 vaccine nor the universal vaccine is released, our compatriot recommends not to let your guard down, especially now that Lima is no longer in quarantine and all efforts are being made to reactivate the national economy.
“Facial biocaretas and N95 masks, both medical grade and with an antiviral filter, will be the weapons with which each one protects themselves until the expected vaccine appears,” he stressed.
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Doctors Without Borders arrived in Tarapoto to reinforce patient care with covid-19. https://t.co/wFgg92PmTR pic.twitter.com/C5P8pswNCK
– Diario El Peruano (@DiarioElPeruano) July 13, 2020