Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.
Please note that this blog does not accept comments. If you're reading this blog and want to respond then please use the contact form on the site, or comment on his Facebook page. You can also follow him on Twitter @mattwridley.
Sign up for his new newsletter and like the new Viral Facebook page to make sure you don't miss any upcoming content.
Matt Ridley's latest book Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, co-authored with scientist Alina Chan from Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, is now available in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
My article for Spectator:
The Queen has suffered ‘mild, cold-like symptoms’ from her Covid-19 infection, according to Buckingham Palace. The wording reminds us that, except in the very vulnerable, the common cold is always and everywhere a mild disease. There are 200 kinds of virus that cause colds and they hardly ever debilitate healthy people, let alone kill them. Yet we were recently told by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) that ‘it is a common misconception that “viruses mutate to cause less severe disease”’. If that is the case, how did all common colds become mild — and why would Covid not do the same?
As somebody with a background in evolutionary biology, I knew that Nervtag’s claim (which bizarrely cited myxomatosis, a flea-borne disease of rabbits, to support its argument) was misleading. Surely they were aware that, mostly due to the work of Professor Paul Ewald, the dominant belief in evolutionary theory about disease virulence is that it depends on the mode of transmission? Though sometimes lethal at first, respiratory diseases do evolve to become milder, while sexually transmitted, waterborne or insect-borne diseases (such as myxomatosis) don’t.
Receive all my latest posts straight to your inbox. simply subscribe below:
[*] denotes a required field