[Coral-List] Fwd: Coral Diseases and COVID 19

Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Fri Apr 16 16:40:44 UTC 2021

Dear Alina, Good to hear from you after all those years. I recall we 
first met in 1983 and over the years served on many coral reef 
committees together. I was always impressed with how you adamantly stuck 
with the hard-core science when we encountered highly emotional or 
politically motivated environmentalists when they made outlandish 
claims. I could always depend on you to correct their false statements.

I well recall back when I first began to suspect microbes in African 
dust were affecting coral reefs. That was at a time many microbiologists 
were taught bacteria could not make the 3,000+-mile trip in the 
atmosphere from Africa. Dogma said they were killed by UV radiation. I 
certainly had an uphill battle convincing experts otherwise. In fact it 
was almost impossible to encourage researchers to investigate or obtain 
funding to do so. Today we know better. There is even a community of 
microbes restricted almost entirely to the atmosphere.

When we finally obtained some funding my group cultured and identified 
at least 200 species that originated in North Africa. Most are soil 
bacteria and fungi protected from UV by          the dust particles. 
That is now history and most is published. You now seem convinced it is 
the viruses that cannot make the trip. If you stain dust samples on a 
microscope slide you can observe many viral particles along with the 
usual bacteria and fungi. Whether they are viable or not we do not know. 
Unfortunately my team could not investigate their viability without a 
level 3 laboratory. There are not many such labs in the US.

Of course the viruses that caused the 1918 influenza were a different 
species than the present Corona virus. The point I was making was that 
the 1918 virus could not have been produced in a laboratory back then. 
Viruses were hardly know to exist in those days. Corona virus can now be 
produced or modified in a virology laboratory or like the 1918 virus 
they could also occur in nature. I do not know. It is commonly thought 
the virus came from bats and make the jump to humans.

In our studies we concentrated mainly on African dust however, we also 
examined Asian dust in satellite images. There were events when South 
Korea was completely obscured by Asian dust that had first passed over 
China. Such clouds of dust soon passed over Japan and finally settled in 
the North West US and in the Arctic. Arctic Sea ice is at times loaded 
with red iron-rich dust. You may recall the largest dust storm in the 
past decade recently passed over China. A photo made the front page of 
the Wall street Journal.

As for Brazil I just learned last night that France has stopped air 
travel from Brazil to France due to COVID.Best wishes, Have a nice 
weekend. GenePS: sorry I misspelled corona in my note to coral list.

On 4/13/21 2:45 PM, Alina Szmant wrote:
> Hello Gene:
> I know that Sahara dust as a vector of everything evil is an important topic for you. But the problem with speculation is that there is no scientific proof to back it up, and I am a firm adherent to the scientific method. The explosion of COVID-19 cases in FL (including the Keys) has been predicted to happen as a consequence of uninhibited and irresponsible behavior during the spring break weeks. Thus unless you can control for Sahara dust vs masses of people with no masks you can't make a case for any upcoming outbreak being due to COVID-19 viral particles dispersing with dust. Based on the survivorship data I have seen from CDC and other sources these viral particles would not survive for any length of time in a cloud of dust.
> As for the "Carona" in Brazil, do you mean some other type of corona virus? COVID is named after the CORONA protein spikes on the surface of the virus capsule, those bright red structures one sees in everyday graphics of the COVID-19 virus. There are seven corona viruses, including SARS- and MERS-  known to infect humans and we have known them since the 1960s. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html). They are a different group of viruses from the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic.
> Regards,
> Alina
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Coral-List<coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>  On Behalf Of Eugene Shinn via Coral-List
> Sent: Monday, April 12, 2021 4:39 PM
> To:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Coral Diseases and COVID 19
> In the early 2000s I led a USGS group of research scientists investigating microbes and various toxic minerals transported across the Atlantic attached to African dust particles. My team included two Phd Microbiologists, a Geochemist, a coral reef biologist, and myself, a sedimentologist/geologist. Our study began as an attempt to determine why coral reefs began sickening and dying in the late 1970s and began peaking in 1983. The diseases have continued to the present.
> Our first target was raw sewage being injected in the porous Keys limestone. We installed close to 100 monitoring wells that allowed us to determine the direction of ground water flow. Initial funding was from USGS, State of Florida, and NASA. Later we receives greater funding from our own Congressman Bill Young. Our research revealed the presence of toxic minerals, radio-active elements, and numerous microbes that arrive in the annual influx of African dust. That dust also settles into the sewage contaminated Keys groundwater. Over 200 viable bacteria and fungi were cultured and identified in the atmospheric dust that settles in the Keys and the Gulf of Mexico each summer. Along with bacteria our two microbiologists (graduates of USF) also detected an abundance of viruses. However, by law we could not culture and study viruses. A level
> 3 microbiology laboratory is required for the study of viruses. The microbiologist however, observed, that the number of viruses in the dust often exceeded the numbers of microbes.
> Stimulated by increasing levels of asthma in the Caribbean and the advent of Desert Storm in Iran our focus eventually shifted from coral health to human health. We were concerned that African dust could be used to transport /Bacillus anthraces/, generally known as ANTHRAX. We knew this could easily reach our shores. Numerous species of live /Bacillus/ were commonly cultured from this dust.//Fortunately we found no /Bacillus anthraces/.
> All of this research transpired a few years before the appearance of the /Carona/ Virus and the outbreak of COVID 19. With satellite images from NASA we could watch the seasonality of annual dust events. During our winter months dust storms from Africa make landfall in the Amazon forests of Brazil and the Windward islands where asthma among children was increasing. It was also known that the dust fertilizes the Amazon rain forest. I recall that some of the first COVID outbreaks occurred in Brazil. As near as we can determine from sketchy reports those early outbreaks occurred in the winter of 2019. During summer months dust storms also cross the Mediterranean impacting Europe and often turn the Alpine snow a rusty brown color. That dust also obscures windshields of autos in Spain. Here in Florida the dust arrives in late June and early July and extends into August and September.At times it is difficult to see more than a mile.
>   From what I am reading in newspaper reports (I am retired) COVID is again spiking in Brazil, So as we enter spring it will be interesting to see if we experience a spike in COVID during June and July in the Florida Keys. Many have predicted an impending spike so stay tuned.It is a very infectious virus and once established easily spreads from person to person.
> *Speculations*
> **Presently there are at leas 3 hypotheses regarding the origin of the CARONA 19 Virus. 1. It is a natural virus, 2. It is derived from Bats,(or frozen fish) and 3. It was modified from 1 and 2 in a Viral laboratory and escaped. I will avoid these controversies. Only time will tell. However, I think it importantfor readers to consider the Great Influenza out break of 1918. That virus killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide at a time when there was no TV and essentially no radio. Because we were at war with Germany (WW1) there was little that could be reported in newspapers. It was at first thought to be caused by a bacteria and all efforts to create a vaccine were based on a bacterial origin. We now know it was in fact a virus. Viruses were only vaguely known to exist in 1918 and the electron microscope necessary to see them had not yet been invented. The influenza virus therefore could not have been a laboratory creation. It had to be a naturally created virus that like COVID also came in two different waves and eventually subsided in 1922. For a detailed account read, “The Great Influenza” by John M. Barry. The book was a New York Times best seller.
> Will we experience a resurgence of COVID come dust season in the Florida Keys this July?Lets wait and see. Gene
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