Are We Making Ideal Circumstances For New Coronavirus Variants? Biologists Warn

Are We Making Ideal Circumstances For New Coronavirus Variants? Biologists Warn

Biologists at the University of East Anglia in the UK have warned that we are actually creating conditions for new coronavirus variants. This warning is the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions when many of the individuals are still unvaccinated, which increases the risk. According to the journal Virulence, they say that relaxing the measures at this time when the majority of the population is still unvaccinated increases the chances of more transmissible and much more virulent variants.

Are We Making Ideal Circumstances For New Coronavirus Variants? Biologists Warn

They say that these new variants may be much more dangerous for children specifically and for particularly vulnerable groups, including transplant patients with weak immune systems. They also clarified that these variants could also escape the protection of the body developed by existing vaccines. They also write in the journal that ‘easing out restrictions lifts transmission of the virus and also allows expanding the virus population which enhances its adaptive evolutionary potential. However, it also increases the risk of vaccine-resistant strains that will emerge by a process termed antigenic drift’. 

Are We Making Ideal Circumstances For New Coronavirus Variants? Biologists Warn

These new variants can also emerge in the countries where vaccination successfully reduced the figures of deaths and hospitalizations. Antigenic drift is the random mutations in the virus’s genome that alter the proteins on the virus particle surface. For SARS-CoV-2, the vital is the spike protein that permits the virus to attack cells. Each and every alteration in protein can interfere with the person’s immune system’s capability to recognize and disrupt the virus and reduce the protection which the body gets from vaccination or by past infection. It is the same as a rolling dice situation, in which a large group of people having a virus can generate a mutation that allows it to dodge its future hosts’ immune defenses.

A succession of more transmissible variants

More and more cases can lead to changes and help the variant to spread more easily. But, according to Dr. Cock Van Oosterhout, professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of East Anglia, ‘the concern is the high cases right now.’ He added that ‘these cases will remain high and will permit the continued evolution of the deadly virus and help the evolutions of more virulent variants that can escape vaccines.’

Dr. Cock van also explains that, however, vaccines reduced the mortality rate in few countries. Nevertheless, several clinically susceptible people are at very high risk of severe diseases or else deaths in case they contract the disease. But, he added, ‘this proves that we still have the battle in our hands and control, and we must not let our guard down in this middle of the arms race.’

Unvaccinated children are at high risk

The author also believes that relaxing coronavirus restrictions can be harmful to children as they are more prone to get an infection as they are unvaccinated. The reason is that new variants will infect the group that is not protected by vaccination. Also, the spread of more virulent strains into an under-vaccinated population can turn out to be much more severe.

The scientists warn that ‘virus is slowing down and it is the time to act fast and reduce the people with infections by speeding the vaccination drive and also increasing the other health policies. At this time, relaxing measures would let our guard down in the middle of the battle and will place all of us with a significant disadvantage in the arms race with the coronavirus.’ The author recommends that measures like mandatory wearing masks remain as it is until most of the population is vaccinated. Removing covid-19 restrictions can increase the risks for children and other vulnerable groups that are still unvaccinated and can lead to much more infectious and deadly variants.

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