Tim writes:


Give  a country a 100,000 human genome project and pretty soon everything becomes a genome project.  I don’t think you are being harsh enough in your criticism of B.1.1.7  confirmation bias from England. If  B.1.1.7 is already in 20 U.S states, has been circulating since November (following the report of Larsen/Worobey – thanks for that link and discussion) then it has more than enough spread and time even to show itself even in the face of relatively poor sampling in the U.S. compared  to England.   This is math that can be done on a spreadsheet.  

The time is ticking on this hypothesis. The optics of this story are distracting from the very real issues of logistics, vaccine reticence and physical distancing that tangibly affect outcomes.

There is no alternative hypothesis in these papers from Nervetag only probablity of their own veracity (of increased transmission and now mortality.)  As I read the latest paper 


there is a less than 50 percent chance (between 40 and 50) of an increased mortality risk from the B.1.1.7.  I think that is not as news worthy  as the 29% mortality in Yemen (as of Jan 23rd.)

If the UK wants to explain away their high  mortality or transmission rates with respect to other countries… they will have to go further than genomics.  There are mundane, human and under reported causes to be found.

Data does not mean anything without real world referents.   The alt hypothesis of founder effect evidently can be dismissed epidemiologically.  I would like to read this analysis before we throw our attention to mortality.

Speaking of which… is there any other thoughts on recombination to explain B.1.1.7.  Looking at the recent data it seems there is a more robust tree with more intermediate variants. Is that true?

Another great show.  Please focus my uneducated take here with some reality and Nels-ian collegiality.


Tim Smith
Portland Oregon

P.S.  I’ve disconnected from the social media – where are these personal fusilades aimed at Vincent.  Not sure I want to create accounts to snoop these out.

Dave writes:

Good day Chroniclers of Progress(ion), 

In TwEvo 64, at about 15:00 Nels was channeling the didactic middle-aged professor regarding the use of the word “evolve” with respect to b cells.  I would like to explain a perspective that I have and hear from the didactic middle-aged professor as to whether he feels that it is appropriate. 

I posit that you are not the organism, you are the environmental niche and the b cells are the organisms within that niche.  The notion that somatic mutations in your b cells will not be transmitted to your children is of no more relevance than the fact that the babies of Old World monkeys are not transported to the Americas to interact with New World monkeys.  They can evolve separately in their respective niches. 

During somatic hyper-mutation the b cells are dividing by binary fission, like protists, those that divide fastest have more grandchildren and gain ground in the evolutionary race.  They are subjected to hyper-mutation resulting in extraordinary diversity among their off-spring.  There is also brutal selective pressure enforced by the environment that culls all but the fittest.  This population of b cells thus resembles a population of protists under-going severe environmental pressure and will respond to this natural selection by “evolving” towards increased fitness, which (pun intended) will be a better fit with the presenting epitopes.  Improving “fit” increases “fitness”. 

Well Professor, appropriate?  Misaligned?… 

I am breathless as I await enlightenment, 

Dr. Dave Jackson 

Jill writes:


What kind of evolution is left-handedness in humans? (Isn’t left-handedness consistently around 10% of the population at any given time, but not inherited directly from parents?) Is there a possibility that there is an equivalent kind of evolution in viruses? That’s different from convergent evolution, isn’t it? Just like left-handedness never evolves in above 10% of humans at any given time. 

Is it wrong to compare human evolution to viral evolution? Please just ignore this whole question if I am way off base. 

(Left-handed fan with relatively little scientific knowledge)