Covid’s spooky death: how long will it be a threat?

Covid-19 variations continue to emerge in various parts of the world, prompting researchers to wonder how long the pandemic will remain and how effective current prevention measures are. When we talk about it in 2021, we don’t only mean the original variant, but also its many variations.

Deciding in May to use Greek letters to mark the major variants by the Who Since then, the Delta variant has been declared the world’s most strong strain, and we now have labels that resemble codes to describe the differences between varieties.

  • With this Delta variant, India is the most suffering country in the world.
  • UK was put on high alert due to a fast-spreading Delta AY.4.2 strain.
  • Norway announced the discovery of AY. 63, a new Delta strain recently.

Experts in the country believe it is no more harmful than the Delta mutation. Even recently, a Covid variant discovered in France (B.1.640) surprised the researchers, who said they’d never seen mutations like it before.

Professor David Dockrell of the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Inflammation Research stated in a statement that the causes for the coronavirus’s continual mutation are unknown.

“The areas in the virus that are most likely to change are those that come into contact with what we call ‘selective pressures’ – or factors that make them need to change,” he explains. “So, a version of the virus which mutates and changes to give it a selective advantage to escape from the immune system is more likely to prosper and become a dominant strain.” 

The body’s immune system is responding to something called a spike protein, or the S-protein. This is the part of the virus many of the immune responses (or antibodies, T-cells etc) are responding to. So, the virus tries to change it in order to survive.

Covid19 appears to be outpacing humanity’s efforts to stop it, but Prof. Dockrell has some good news. “The coronavirus – and viruses like it – are not as able to make these changes. They are going to do it to some extent, but they are not going to be as successful as retroviruses and HIV.” 

Regrettably, we are still in a stage where Covid19 can evolve and change. It’s not time to panic, though, because many adaptations to current anti-Covid tactics are already in place around the world. First and foremost, individuals should continue to obtain immunizations – possibly with slightly modified booster doses, as Prof. Dockrell says, “in a way, that we, after all, have to do with influenza, by providing a seasonal influenza vaccine and changing it every year.”

“And maybe we have to keep changing some of the treatments like these new monoclonal antibodies against the virus, because they also may be limited by the emergence of a mutation of the virus evolving the S-protein,” he also include it.

Vaccines and antibodies will eventually target ‘conserved regions’ of viruses. These are sites where the virus finds it is difficult to modify. The path forward is to develop vaccines and antibodies that affect more different types of viruses, and with this thinking, Prof. Dockrell concludes his whole discussion.