This morning’s The Guardian
Luke Brennan writes:
If you click on the headline above that says “US scientists believe virus is mutating, becoming more contagious“….
…you click through to a page with the subhead that states “Experts believe virus is probably more contagious“…
Then in the article body it states:
“The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects, even as it may be becoming easier to catch”…
The article it links through to on The Washington Post is a good one, giving an intelligent balanced perspective on the immunologist perspective on the evolution of the virus.
The lowdown is this, viruses always mutate, the first half of the Guardian headline “US scientists believe virus is mutating” is like saying “US scientists believe rain is falling”. It is a characteristic part of its being.
It saddens me, as someone who studied science, to see this sort of headline. At the heart of science is a search for truth and the honest appraisal of relationships between things to help us learn and progress.
The Washington Port article is an excellent example of this. It starts with a simple premise, there are two strains of the virus that were prevalent in a test study, a “D” and a “G” version.They found that the virus was 71% G in the first wave, 99.9% G in the second wave. So G is more prevalent. The study states simply that.
Then there are interpretations of this data, by two scientists…
… one David Morens, had this (above) to say.
The article is then balanced by another perspective, that of Kristian Andersen (above):
You can see here that no-one is looking for a “Gotcha” moment here, the facts of the study is detailed, views are expressed, accepting that there are multiple interpretations. The article finishes up by a lament that more studies of these types are not carried out, that more data is available.
The key point of the article is this, if a record is kept of the sequencing, we can anticipate what the virus will do next. As Musser said in the last quote in the article “I think it is shameful that we are not doing that“.
Does that study, and the interpretation of it in the WP deserve to be summed up with a B – movie plotline? “US scientists believe virus is mutating, becoming more contagious”.
I’m sure it gets the clicks, but the first part is self-evident and connecting it to the second is to live on very thin moral gravy.
Previously: Luke Brennan on Broadsheet