Scientists say they are hoping for more anxious variants after Omicron

Get ready to learn more Greek letters. Scientists warn that the progress of Omicron’s whirlwind effectively guarantees that it is not the last version of the coronavirus that worries the world.

All infections provide an opportunity for the virus to mutate, Omicron has an edge On top of its predecessor: It spreads much faster Despite its emergence on planets with stronger patchwork of immunity from vaccines and previous illnesses.

This means more people have the potential for the virus to evolve further.Experts don’t know what the following variants will look like or what they will look like Form a pandemicHowever, they say there is no guarantee that the sequel to Omicron will cause milder illnesses or that existing vaccines will work against them.

They urge Broader vaccination Now, today’s shot is still working.

“The faster Omicron spreads, the more chances of mutation and the potential for more mutations,” said Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University.

Since its appearance in mid-November, Omicron has traveled around the world like fire in dry grass. Studies have shown that this variant is at least twice as infectious as Delta and at least four times as infectious as the original version of the virus.

Omicron is more likely to re-infect individuals infected with COVID-19 prior to Delta, attacking unvaccinated people and causing “breakthrough infections” in vaccinated people. .. The World Health Organization reported a record 15 million new COVID-19 cases during the week of January 3-9. This is a 55% increase from the previous week.

In addition to keeping relatively healthy people away from work and school, the easy spread of mutants increases the likelihood that the virus will stay in the body of a person with weakened immunity, a powerful sudden It takes longer to develop the mutation.

Dr. Stuart Campbellley, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said: “It provides an opportunity for it to occur only if the infection is very widespread.”

Omicron appears to cause less severe illnesses than Delta, so that behavior has burned hope that it could ultimately be the beginning of a tendency to make the virus milder, like a cold. rice field.

Experts say that if the virus kills the host very quickly, the virus may not spread well. However, viruses are not always deadly over time.

If infected people first develop mild symptoms, spread the virus by interacting with others, and then become very ill, the variant can also achieve its main goal of replication. You can, Ray explained as an example.

“People wondered if the virus would evolve slowly, but there is no particular reason to do so,” he said. “I don’t think we can be confident that the lethality of the virus will decrease over time.”

Gradually improving in avoiding immunity helps the virus survive for a long time. No one was immune when SARS-CoV-2 was first attacked. However, infectious diseases and vaccines give at least some immunity to much of the world, so the virus must adapt.

There are many possible paths for evolution. Animals can potentially cultivate and release new subspecies. Pet dogs, cats, deer, and farm-raised mink are just a few of the animals that are vulnerable to the virus and can mutate in them and bounce off people.

Another potential route: When both Omicron and Delta are circulating, people can develop a double infection that can produce a hybrid with both types of characteristics, which Ray calls the “Franken variant”. There is sex.

When new mutants were developed, scientists said it was still very difficult to know which one would take off from genetic characteristics. For example, Omicron has far more mutations than its predecessor, and spike proteins have about 30 mutations that can attach to human cells. However, the so-called IHU variant identified in France and monitored by WHO has 46 mutations and does not appear to be very widespread.

To curb the emergence of variants, scientists are emphasizing continued public health measures such as masking and vaccination. Experts say Omicron is more capable of evading immunity than Delta, but vaccines still provide protection and booster shots significantly reduce serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Ann Thomas, a 64-year-old IT analyst in Westerly, Rhode Island, said she was fully vaccinated and backed up while the state was one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the United States. He said he was trying to stay safe by staying mostly at home.

“There is no doubt that these viruses will continue to mutate. We will deal with this for a very long time,” she said.

Ray likened the vaccine to human armor. This significantly prevents the spread of the virus, even if it does not completely stop it. For viruses that spread exponentially, “everything that suppresses infection can have a significant effect,” he said. Also, when vaccinated people became ill, Ray said their illness was usually mild, healed faster, and had less time to produce dangerous mutants.

Experts say the virus will not be endemic like the flu, as long as the global vaccination rate is very low. At a recent press conference, WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes said that protecting people from future variants, including those that may be completely resistant to today’s injections, is a global vaccine. He said it depends on ending the injustice.

Tedros said 70% of people in all countries want to be vaccinated by the middle of the year. Currently, there are dozens of countries where less than a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated. Johns Hopkins University Statistics.. And in the United States, many continue to resist the vaccines available.

“These unvaccinated giant bands in the United States, Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc. are basically atypical factories,” said Dr. Prabert Jar, Global Health Research Center, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto. I am. “What we couldn’t do was a huge failure in global leadership.”

Meanwhile, new variants are inevitable, said Luis Mansky, director of the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Minnesota.

“The virus still controls what’s happening,” he said, as so many people haven’t been vaccinated.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Science Education Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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