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Rik de Swart in the New Yorker; How does the coronavirus behave inside a patient?

April 3, 2020

“I want to emphasize that measles and COVID-19 are different diseases caused by very different viruses with different behaviors,” Rik de Swart, a virologist at Erasmus University, in Rotterdam, cautioned when we spoke, “but in measles there are several clear indications that the severity of illness relates to the dose of exposure.

Perhaps the strongest association between the intensity of exposure and the intensity of subsequent disease is seen in measles research. “I want to emphasize that measles and COVID-19 are different diseases caused by very different viruses with different behaviors,” Rik de Swart, a virologist at Erasmus University, in Rotterdam, cautioned when we spoke, “but in measles there are several clear indications that the severity of illness relates to the dose of exposure. And it makes immunological sense, because the interaction between the virus and the immune system is a race in time. It’s a race between the virus finding enough target cells to replicate and the antiviral response aiming to eliminate the virus. If you give the virus a head start with a large dose, you get higher viremia, more dissemination, higher infection, and worse disease.”

Picture of Rik de Swart

Read Rik de Swart's contribution to the New Yorker article by Siddhartha Mukherjee, 26 March, 2020