Today we're off to Iceland, one of my favorite countries which has been at the very leading edge of the Coronavirus testing.
There is a company therecalled deCODE genetics, which has been looking at the Icelandic population'sgenomes for about 25 years.
When the virus hit, theyvery quickly started testing just about everyone they could, not just people who were sick, but a random sampling of Icelanders.
They've come up with some ofthe biggest insights we have on the virus.
Let's hit Iceland and talk tothe CEO of deCODE genetics.
Do you mind just introducing yourself? My name is Kári Stefánsson, and I'm the founder andCEO of deCODE genetics.
You had one of the mostambitious testing programs.
You've tested I think it'sabout 10% of the population? 10.
5% of the population.
So it sounded like at first, anybody who wanted a test could sign up and applyfor one, and then you went to this more random process where you, I think you literally went through the phone book and kind of picked people.
We started to test on January 31st, and the healthcare system tested for 28 days beforefinding the first patient.
We started to screen ina population in general on March the 13th.
And we have already screenedabout 10% of the population.
We have determined that onaverage, during this time that we've screening, about .
8% of the population has been infected by the virus, but that number has been coming down.
We have sequenced the virus from every single person infected.
And that first generated avery interesting picture.
So if you look worldwide, there is a tremendous collections of mutations in this virus.
So in this patterns of mutations, you have about a barcode, and having the sequence of the virus from everyone infectedgives us an opportunity to determine the country of origin of the infection in all ofthe infected in Iceland.
Another thing that you cando with this sequence is that you can use it to tracethe infection in Iceland.
You can figure out whowas infected from whom.
So if you were diagnosedwith an infection, we can in an instant, findall of the smartphones that within one or two metersfrom your smartphone over the past five days, which is somewhat scary.
It sounds like considerableinvasion of privacy.
But when you are looking abeast like this in the eyes, you have to use whatever you have.
You know because Icelandis relatively contained, because you were soaggressive with your testing and tracing, I mean you didn'tgo on to the same lockdown as some of the other countries.
Explain to me what lockdownlooked like a month ago and what it looks like now asa result of all the testing that you've been able todo and all the tracing.
We really don't have a lockdown.
We don't have a curfew.
We have the ban on gatheringmore than 20 people.
We are insisting that weshould keep social distance of two meters.
We have our elementary school are open, the childcare centers areopen, the stores are open.
We are taking a very mildapproach to this in general but we have been veryaggressive when it comes to the specific approach to those infected and been very aggressivein looking for them by screening widely.
I think that the societal price for doing this approach is much less, there's a higher price thanscreening but that's trivial.
That's absolutely trivial.
I mean so this remainskinda shocking to me, I mean like, how is itpossible that we still do not have widespread anti-bodytesting in places outside of somewhere like Iceland? I honestly, what surprises me the most is that we don't haveit in the United States, because what we'redoing here in Iceland is what we've learnt in America, all right? You have this unbelievablyresourceful nation.
You have, you know, you havethe 25, 50 best universities in the world.
There does seem to be will here, particularly among the universities.
Is some of this just down to the fact that it's almost like a supply thing? The reagents, the.
So much stuff has been tied up in China and the supply chain, ordo you really think this is more of like a will– ? I am buying my reagentsfrom the United States.
It is not a reagent thing.
It is a complete lack of coordination.
There seems to be a completeinability to take advantage of the fact that in an epidemic like this, everyone wants to contribute.
You are so young, you may not remember, but when Dukakis was runningagainst Ronald Regan, when Ronald Regan wasrunning for re-election, Dukakis said in one interview that the fish rots from the head down.
I think that a lot of your problems begin with your commander-in-chief.
Your company's so well known for, obviously having these broadgenetic models for working on disease, I mean whatelse has stood out to you about this particular virus? You see, I've beeninvolved with research into a large number of diseasesover the 42/3 years, and usually when webegin to study a disease, the first thing you have to figure out is what questions have yet to be answered.
But when it comes to thisdisease, it falls into my lap and all of the questions are unanswered.
If you look at people in general, women are less likely toget infected than men, and if women get infected theydo not become as sick as men.
About two weeks ago, therewere 10 people on respirators at the National Hospital of Iceland.
Nine of them were men, just one woman.
Children are less likely toget infected than adults, and if they get infected, they are less likely to become sick.
There is an enormousdiversity in the vulnerability and it's really interestingto speculate on what is it that what causesthis clinical diversity.
There is something in thenature of the potential host that is very important, and I mean there are others all over the world who are tryingto figure out what it is.