New variants will continue to emerge. This is what China’s virologist Shi Zhengli, also known as “bat woman”, who heads the Wuhan lab has predicted. Nations across the globe are meanwhile battling the deadly Delta variant of COVID-19, which was one of the reasons behind India’s disastrous second wave.
“We shouldn’t panic, but we need to prepare to co-exist with the virus in the long term,” Zhengli said. She added that the virus had “become too big” which allowed it to “mutate and select”. However, vaccines remain imperative, Zhengli said, stating that while vaccines can’t prevent people from getting infected, the critcality of the cases will go down.
While Scientists remain focused on Delta, now the dominant variant rising rapidly around the world, they are also tracking others to see what may one day take its place.
According to Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, Delta’s “superpower” is its transmissibility. Chinese researchers found that people infected with Delta carry 1,260 times more virus in their noses compared with the original version of the coronavirus.
While the original coronavirus took up to seven days to cause symptoms, Delta can cause symptoms two to three days faster, giving the immune system less time to respond and mount a defense. Delta also appears to be mutating further, with reports emerging of a “Delta Plus” variant, a sub-lineage that carries an additional mutation that has been shown to evade immune protection.
India listed Delta Plus as a variant of concern in June, but neither the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention nor the WHO have done so yet
Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, recently warned that the United States could be in trouble unless more Americans get vaccinated, as a large pool of unvaccinated people give the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate into new variants.
Zhengli, who’s China’s top virologist, expressed concerns on the heels of Wuhan authorities testing all 11 million residents after an outbreak was reported among migrant workers. Wuhan, which first reported the virus in 2019 had reported zero cases for several months, however, the highly transferrable Delta variant has spread rapidly across the country in recent weeks with Nanjing becoming the epicentre of the virus.
(With inputs from Reuters)