18 May 2020
Setting it Straight: The Red and the White of the war against SARS-CoV-2
Written by Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty
It seems, programmed into our DNA, that we confront clear and present danger by fight or flight. When it comes to discussing medical threats, we use the language of conflict: defeat an infection, battle cancer, fight for life, the war against COVID-19. For flight, on the other hand, social distancing seems to work for COVID-19, though where’s the drama in that!
Reflecting on the red and white of conflict takes us to the Red versus White armies of post-revolutionary Russia, the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York in England’s 1445-85 War of the Roses, or way back to the red-on-white cross of St George and the 10th century Crusades. Both white shrouds and spilling blood red rivers in some power struggle or other are central to the human story. And, what happens with the red and the white of blood is at the heart of the confrontation between SARS-CoV-2 and the human organism, the biological battleground we call COVID-19.