Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Fourth session of German Coronavirus Inquiry

[Frau Professor Dr Ulrike Kämmerer, virologist and immunologist at the University of Würzburg, spoke via telephone link with the fourth sitting of the corona-crisis inquiry on 24 July 2020, to answer questions on the PCR test used to diagnose “infections” or “cases” of covid19 globally; there are an unknown number of versions of the test in use and an unknown number of ways in which the test is calibrated, but the fundamentals of the test remain unchanged. Dr Wolfgang Wodarg was present at the hearing to ask and answer questions, and occasionally present slides.]


[Above chart not presented at hearing, my addition]


Kämmerer begins with an explanation of the basic operation of the PCR test; the PCR test confirms or denies the existence of specific nucleic acids in the test subject. In response to prompting from Wodarg, she adds that the test searches, via “multiplication”, for a small gene fragment from a selected region of a virus, but cannot confirm or deny the presence of the complete – “full length” – virus. In other words, a positive test result cannot confirm the presence of a virus, only the presence of a fragment of genetic material from a particular virus. A positive test result thus says nothing about sickness or infection.

Dr Füllmich, one of the four-member chair of lawyers hosting the hearings, interjects, pointing out that this is extremely important and must be established clearly. Kämmerer expands on the point again, explaining that a positive PCR-test result says nothing about whether a virus is capable of replicating, can confirm the presence of particular nucleic acids, but can say nothing about whether the test patient is or will become sick. Thus, the test can say nothing about viral load in the case of asymptomatic people. 

Kämmerer then goes into further detail. There is some RNA on the surface of the swab taken from the subject. A positive result cannot tell us either that the RNA is in the subject’s cells, or that an active, intact virus capable of replicating via the subject’s biology is present. In response to a question from Wodarg as to whether the test they are discussing is the same PCR test being used globally to assess the severity of the covid19 pandemic, Kämmerer answers, “Exactly.”
Füllmich: “Frau Professor Kämmerer, this is, from my point of view at least, insanely important information [… ] Because I’m domiciled in the US, I know one thing: In the US, the only reason for the current panic is the continually repeated water-level reporting regarding the numbers of infections. Have I understood correctly that these PCR tests that you and Dr Wodarg have just explained and are being used, that these tests, when they record a positive result, provide evidence that some molecules have been found – or even parts of molecules – but not that some sort of infection has taken place?”

Kämmerer: “That is correct.”
In response to a question from Wodarg as to whether the test could be so configured that it could report on viral load and infection, Kämmerer responds that such would be possible, but scientists and researchers would have to work with the isolated virus. She has not yet seen anything in the literature stating that this has been done.
Wodarg: “This is what the European Union demands of tests intended for diagnostic purposes…”
Kämmerer: “Yes, normally they would conduct round-robin trials. Labs would be given samples and wouldn’t know whether there’s something in them or not – only the diagnostic collection office knows that. And the test has to report back positive, negative, weakly positive … but none of this has happened.”
Füllmich appears staggered by this information, and later asks Kämmerer again if the positive test results “slopping about” in the US at the moment really say nothing about infection and disease in the people tested.
Kämmerer: “That’s correct. Although if the test responds early [in its replication cycles], you can be fairly sure the virus is present. This is the familiar problem of where to set the cut-off point. This point mostly remains undefined in papers; the CQCT value used really ought to be specified. The papers never specify which PCR test is used with which parameters to record the positive results, so we absolutely cannot evaluate the data published; it’s like reading tea leaves.”
Kämmerer then answers in the affirmative to a question from Justus Hoffmann – inquiry-chair lawyer – asking if the test results are effectively worthless until the details on each test are known. Asked by Wodarg if the tests might be detecting a wide variety of SARS viruses, Kämmerer again answers in the affirmative. It is also impossible to say that the SARS-CoV-2 virus – apparently discovered in Wuhan – is new, or how new if at all.
Kämmerer: “We are dealing with an RNA virus, and RNA viruses mutate incredibly quickly. In other words, were the virus to be sequenced across the world, we’d find an unbelievably high number of variants of this virus. This is typical of RNA viruses, such that you’ll almost certainly never find exactly the same sequence to the one now present in Wuhan, or in New York, in Rio de Janeiro, in Melbourne, for example. This is practically impossible unless someone travelled from A to B to C and spread their virus.” [Which is surely the official narrative: that SARS-CoV-2 originated in and spread out from Wuhan.]
Kämmerer then explains that the correct procedure in developing a test is to use an isolated virus as a gold standard to ensure the test only and always identifies the single pathogen in question. 
Füllmich: “But that did not happen.” 
The test we’ve been working with thus far – Füllmich calls it “cobbled together” – is the shaky basis for the hundreds of variants being used worldwide to reinstate lockdowns in discovered hotspots. As a lawyer, Füllmich simply cannot understand how this can be so. Kämmerer agrees; as a virologist, she feels something is wrong.

In response to a question from Viviane Fischer – inquiry-chair lawyer – regarding the wide variety of tests in use and broad spectrum of parameters that can be set when using the test, Kämmerer explains that it will never be possible to find one single constant variant of SARS-CoV-2. There are already 10s of mutants recorded in the relevant databases. 

Hoffmann then inquires about the possibility of comparison benchmarks that might inform us on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants’ distribution through populations in previous years, such that we could assess relative severity. Kämmerer points out that such data does not exist, as no one had bothered about corona viruses up until now; they had never represented much of a problem, with SARS and MERS being notable exceptions. Wodarg draws attention to a chart – not specifying its source country of research – and mentions that there are a couple of places that have been researching this question – demonstrating the perennial presence of corona viruses (CoV) in influenza seasons.



Füllmich asks whether SARS-CoV-2 might have been present for some time, but only discovered at the end of 2019. Kämmerer’s response is that we can’t really know for sure, but it is possible – corona viruses mutate so quickly – that SARS-CoV-2 is new, whereby “new” means slightly different to some predecessor. It would be possible to discover if it is new, but “amplifiable samples” taken during a previous flu season would have to be extant and stored properly in liquid nitrogen.

The discussion then switches to a ranging exploration of immunity as it pertains to: various age groups – viruses do not notice age, they are effective only where cell receptors are present that they can dock onto, regardless of host age; to inborn and learned immunity; and to cross-immunity and how children’s constant exposure to countless CoV variants teaches their immune systems to defend against other variants by recognising similarities. Kämmerer stresses the importance of learned over in-born immunity, saying the children’s exposure via close contact with their families and school friends is critical. 

Wodarg raises the point that corona viruses have a highly identifiable basic structure – whence the name – involving the crown-like spikes surrounding their membrane, and that this structure facilitates cross-immunity. Kämmerer agrees, adding that the “spikes” themselves ought not to mutate as they are needed to “dock” with the hosts’ cell receptors. They are the ‘keys’ to the rooms – cell interiors – in which the virus can replicate; the spikes thus mutate very slowly.

Viviane Fischer and Füllmich ask if there’s a possibility that among the dead of previous influenza seasons, undiagnosed cases of SARS-CoV-2 might have been involved. Kämmerer recalls a paper published on an incident in Alberta, Canada, in which a number of elderly people died in a care home. Tests were conducted and a corona virus was found to be responsible. In other words, cases do occur where similar clinical outcomes regarding certain types of lung damage is effected by different strains. Hoffmann seeks confirmation that the claimed newness of the lung damage said to be caused by SARS-CoV-2 is in fact a fairly familiar and widespread artefact of other corona viruses. Kämmerer answers in the affirmative.

Wodarg then introduces the “sentinel” system set up by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) that receives data from hundreds of clinics and doctors’ practices from across Germany regarding the incidence of the various viruses that make their rounds from season to season, year after year.

["Kalenderwoche" means "calendar week", "viren" means "viruses"]

The discussion then turns, via a question from Füllmich, to the infamous “second wave”. Kämmerer responds by saying that corona viruses tail off in spring and return around December or late autumn.
Wodarg: “My question to all those talking about a ‘second wave’: When was there ever such a thing? How do you know that a second wave is coming? What evidence do you have that there can even be two waves? How is it that you can say so matter of factly: There WILL be a second wave! Who told you this? Where is the literature? Where can you find it? Nowhere!”
Füllmich: “That’s also our legal question. Because, with this evocation of a second wave that, in my view – I really do have to put it like this now – is desperately being invoked to keep these measures going, there really does have to be some evidence for it. That’s my question as a lawyer. Has there ever been such a thing, or is it just an ordinary summer flu?” [Rhino viruses, blue line in chart above.]
Wodarg: “There is no second wave. There’s no second corona wave; there is always, every year, a wave in which the corona viruses are more or less numerous. Every observation, all evidence we have, confirms this. So if someone is talking about a second or additional wave, then it can’t be a coming second wave, but one that someone is making. You can also make waves, but I don’t think that’s easily done.”
Füllmich: “We would have to be able to prove that.” 
Wodarg: “Agreed.”
Füllmich: “We have just learned that the PCR tests have absolutely no validity here. Antibody tests do to an extent, but we’re not finding anything at the moment, if I’m understanding things correctly from the mainstream media – whom I no longer trust – we’re not finding anything! And that’s why I’ve been wondering for a long time now why there’s all this talk of a second wave. […] You [gestures to conference telephone / Professor Kämmerer], as a virologist, perhaps you know more on this point: Is there any supporting evidence, has there ever been such a thing?”
Kämmerer explains that if the number of tests continues to grow and reaches the millions by late autumn / early winter, then the arrival of the next corona season will produce more positive results as a matter of course. There is, in that sense, going to be a second wave, but also a third, fourth, fifth … into the hundreds. It is an annual process. With the flu, for example, we don’t talk about second waves, but about seasons. There are also corona seasons.

The putative historical precedent of the Spanish Flu is raised as the only possible scientific evidence, but is deemed insufficient. The severely compromised immune system in young men exposed to the the poison gasses and extreme stresses of WW1 is offered as an explanation. Two consecutive flu seasons at the end of WW1 met virtually no resistance in the young soldiers. [There is much research on the Spanish Flu associating the large number of war-time vaccinations given to soldiers as an additional factor; apparently, non-vaccinated people were not similarly affected by the relevant two flu seasons.] A special hearing is to be held to go into these matters more closely.

Füllmich segues into the next question on fear and panic acting to weaken the immune system. Kämmerer says there is very good data on this question and it is non-controversial across the world that cortisone – produced by stress, fear, panic, etc. – down regulates the immune system; it is used medically to do so at need.

Hoffman then raises a basic, general question about how a virus can be seasonal. Kämmerer’s answer explains the hemispheric nature of seasons. [Rhino viruses appear to ‘prefer’ the stronger immune system characteristic of sunny months, while the others seem to ‘prefer’ the weakened immune systems of wintry months. Why this might be so is not addressed.]

Viviane Fischer then inquires into the possibility that social distancing might impair the development of people’s immune systems via lack of exposure to viruses. Kämmerer feels herself to be insufficiently qualified to answer the question definitively, but references the wipe out of native people in The New World upon the arrival there of Spanish conquistadors, suggesting that continued lack of exposure to evolving viruses may well be counterproductive in terms of immune-system health. She adds that giving the immune system nothing to do can lead to auto-immune diseases. 

Wodarg interjects that he sees the relationship between organisms and viruses as non-combative. We became humans, he reasons, in communication with our environment; we are “full of viruses” “occupied” by them. We are what we are because of bacteria and viruses, not despite them. The simple fact that things can go wrong is universal; our senses can make mistakes, we can forget what we have learned, and die as a consequence. The immune system can also make mistakes and forget, too. Life is about continuous [error-correcting] communications processes.

The topic is explored more deeply in terms of protecting your immune system via healthy living, in contrast to unhealthy living and (metabolic) chronic illnesses as impairments to it. Hence, age is not the critical factor in susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens, it is the quality of the immune system per se that counts.

Wodarg asks whether the large number of vaccinations given to children is the right training for the immune system. Our bodies benefit from annual exposure to pathogens; exposure stimulates the immune system. If we avoid exposure, we weaken ourselves. If we protect ourselves by hiding away in a hole for six months, for example, we “fall out of training”. The same applies if we lie in bed for six months; our bones and muscles degrade. Kämmerer agrees, with the caveat that the length of time required to significantly impair the immune system is uncertain, but certainly more than six months. How social-distancing measures should be assessed against this argument, Kämmerer does not feel qualified to say, but hazards it is unlikely to make any significant difference. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations are then mentioned, and it is agreed the flouting of social-distancing regulations that marked them led to no infection spikes.

The morning session closes discussing the difficulty of assessing the threat presented by the SARS-CoV-2 virus; there is no gold standard available that would facilitate such an assessment, and the different strains active in Wuhan, London, New York, etc. make the matter challenging, a challenge that also adversely effects development of an effective vaccine. In addition to this, there’s never only one pathogen at work at any given time, but a multitude. Determining unequivocally how the multiple pathogenic factors interrelate with chronic diseases and immune-system health presents enormous difficulties, not to mention inappropriate medical interventions such as intubation, environmental toxins, etc. The search is currently exclusively for corona viruses, meaning our data is grossly insufficient to the task.

Summary

The second half begins with Wodarg drawing attention to the grounds used to declare an emergency and what form the measures enacted in its wake took. Typically, a pandemic should look like a catastrophe, and there were images from northern Italy and Wuhan to suggest one was underway there and thus threatened Germany. However, in Germany’s case, this never materialised. Germany’s response was to call for “testing … lots and lots of testing”. Only by testing “the entire population” could Germany discover what’s going on. Information from hospitals, clinics and doctors’ surgeries was ignored. “Today we learned what the tests can tell us.” We are now justified in doubting that the tests can tell us anything at all about any danger Germany might be facing.

We know we are infected when our throats hurt or we have a runny nose. Which virus we might have caught isn’t the issue; we stay at home and wait for it to pass. But the argument that there is a new a dangerous pathogen afoot was used to test as many people as possible; enormous effort to learn almost nothing. Alternatively, sick people in hospitals could be have been targeted and tested; less effort to learn more. And there are also extant monitoring systems that yield infection “weather maps” in Germany. The image below shows weekly snapshots generated by the RKI’s “sentinel probes” (see above), starting with the last week 2019 proceeding through to week 13 (middle of March) 2020. Blue denotes no, green mild and red high rates of infection (of acute respiratory diseases). Four weeks later (mid April) the map was wholly blue again.


Wodarg’s point is that the monitoring tools used are critical. PCR tests tell one story, “sentinel” probes another, hospital-occupancy rates can add important detail, etc. [Of note here and drawing from comments made in the first hearing, PCR testing is now a business model turning over profits that rival those generated by vaccine manufacture.]

He then references a rough pyramidal breakdown of infection types per 100,000 of a population. 30,000 may have been exposed to the virus but have no symptoms. For this group, the question would be, are they infectious? Recently, the WHO produced a paper that answered, No, asymptomatic people are not infectious. Infectiousness is a direct consequence of viral replication within a host. If a virus cannot replicate in me, I cannot infect others with that virus. If it does replicate, its replication produces an inflammation, and this inflammation produces symptoms. And if I am infected, I know it before any test, because I experience the symptoms. The PCR test can only tell me that some molecule chain was discovered in me. A positive test result does not mean “infection”, it means only a positive test result. So if you notice symptoms, stay home, self-isolate, don’t visit Granny. Or, help towards herd immunity and get infected if you’re confident you can handle the particular virus. There is heated discussion about which of these two methods is the more sensible/effective.

Various members of the inquiry chair press Wodarg on this point, reminding him that SARS-CoV-2 is said to be especially dangerous because it is “invisible”, because even asymptomatic people are infectious, a critical criterion used to justify lockdown and mandating masks.

The answer is unambiguous, confirms Wodarg. “If I have no infection, no symptoms, then my body is not reacting [to the virus], not replicating any viruses and cannot spread [the infection].”

Hoffmann asks about the incubation period attributed to SARS-CoV-2. Incubation, answers Wodarg, is the period between contact with the virus and the onset of symptoms. The length of time varies significantly from person to person, and can be as quick as one to two days.

The discussion then revolves for a while around the annual distribution of viruses and how the relative prevalence of each impacts the ‘space made available’ to the others. Wodarg draws an analogy to a fixed-size meadow on which only a certain number of different flowers can grow. CoV is always present to varying degrees.
Füllmich: “So why has this one become a superstar, why has it suddenly been pushed to the foreground? Because what I’ve just understood is that it may have been exactly like this for years, i.e., during other flu seasons – at least this is how I understand it – this virus was also present then as now, albeit in a slightly different mutation.”
Wodarg’s answer is that specialists systematically overestimate. If you ask a virologist, they answer from a virologist’s perspective. With both the bird and swine flu they were wildly wrong. And they’re doing it again. By way of clarification, Füllmich crudely paraphrases that virologists discover some exciting new deadly pathogen, frighten politicians into believing them, then together they effect harsh sociopolitical measures like lockdowns. Wodarg responds by referencing medical conflict-of-interest issues. One is motivated to investigate these but not other matters, and financial profit plays a big part in determining where time and effort is invested. Vaccination, and now PCR tests, are big business.

The WHO’s unannounced change [in May 2009] to its definition of a pandemic is then brought up. Prior to this change, very large numbers of death and sickness were required globally, subsequently only infections caused by a new pathogen spreading across the world are required, something that is in fact an annual occurrence. Füllmich argues that every politician and lawyer should now be asking if there’s any basis for all these actions, and why this is considered a pandemic when it would have been a normal flu wave 11 years ago. 

The media’s presentation of accumulated cases is described by Wodarg as totally misleading. Bar charts showing weekly figures compared to each other, which then depict a curve denoting the weekly rise and fall of cases would be far more reasonable. Wodarg returns to the rough pyramidal breakdown, whose remaining groups consist of 60,000 with symptoms, 8,000 who pay a visit to the doctor because of those symptoms, 500 who end up in a clinic and a remaining 25 who die. A rough estimate of a typical viral epidemic in a developed country. 

Füllmich asks why test results that tell us nothing about infections and disease incidence are reported in the media as “infections”. Wodarg answers, “To make us afraid.” This is not about disease, it’s about vested interests. They made us afraid of the bird flu and of the swine flu: “30 million dead!” said the WHO. We’ve yet to reach 1,000 cases worldwide for the bird flu. Again the WHO declares a pandemic, just as with the swine flu, but without drawing attention its changed definition.
Füllmich: “And no one asks [any critical questions]! It’s as if it’s all being dictated from above. It’s incomprehensible to me. […] Did anyone ask about the change of definition during the Council of Europe’s inquiry into the swine flu?”
Wodarg says the question was asked. The WHO responded that the change was made for pragmatic reasons; we must be careful. The risk now, agree Füllmich and Wodarg, is that every influenza virus can be used to declare a pandemic. Now, essentially, the world is constantly at the mercy of what virologists might discover or “stage”, argues Wodarg. “They just need to start measuring.”

So the mere declaration of a pandemic, recaps Füllmich, is enough to get the whole world to play along. And yet surely there are many other people who can make a far more accurate assessment of what is occurring in hospitals, in funereal homes, etc. Wodarg agrees, reporting that he receives emails from a large number of resident doctors telling him that nothing is happening. “Why don’t they say anything?” asks Füllmich. “They do,” answers Wodarg, but their voices aren’t reported in the media. “Where are the critical media?” asks Wodarg. Where are any critical voices, Wodarg and Füllmich ask. Germany had 50 million doses of the swine-flu vaccine, but then German doctors raised the alarm and only 4 million were administered. He hopes this time that no doctor is prepared to vaccinate their patients with such a quickly developed vaccine as is anticipated for SARS-CoV-2.

The conversation turns to politics. Wodarg is aware of a few politicians who are suspicious of the official narrative, but doubts they will raise concerns. Wodarg and Füllmich reason that the causes must be psychological if there are no evidential or medical reasons for the lockdown and mask mandates; why else would the vast majority uncritically obey? Wodarg compares the phenomenon to how people follow the latest fashion trends. Füllmich suggests the inquiry invite psychologists and psychoanalysts to a hearing.

Wodarg returns to the RKI, stating that it has excellent resources and gathers highly accurate and pertinent data. Sadly this goes unused. All media reporting filters through Herr Spahn [Germany’s health minister] and Dr Wieler [director of the RKI]. Füllmich asks if people lower down the RKI hierarchy could be interviewed. “They would lose their jobs,” answers Wodarg. And any whistleblowers that do come forward insist on anonymity. Füllmich announces that the chair can offer legal anonymity to any whistleblowers.

Wodarg is reminded of totalitarian states. “It’s frightening” what’s happening in Germany, he says. Füllmich believes many people have the same impression and is now of the opinion that fear of the pandemic is misplaced, but fear of something else is indeed warranted.

After criticising formerly objective and critical media such as the TAZ and Correctiv – the latter, according to Wodarg, lied about having interviewed him when in truth he contacted them to warn them about how SARS-CoV-2 is a repeat of the bird- and swine-flu scandals – the chair concludes, and reports on its future programme. It will be interviewing psychologists regarding the impact of the various measures on children, and looking into why the media presents such a uniform perspective of the crisis. The media’s failure to properly present statistics and the various medical aspects is critical, and must be elucidated. 

1 comment:

MaraM said...

Such a good report Toby. Thank you so much for this. This kind of investigation is exactly what we need everywhere to enable the mainstream narrative to be disabled.