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how long will Covid remain a threat?  – RT World News

By Anastasia Safronova, RT Editor

Variants of Covid-19 continue to emerge in different parts of the world, leading experts to wonder how long the pandemic will last and how effective current protection methods are.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2019, people have referred to the disease that has crippled the world simply as ‘coronavirus’. However, in 2021, when we talk about it, we are not only talking about the original variant, but also about its many mutations.

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how long will Covid remain a threat?  – RT World News

In May, the WHO decided to label the key variants with Greek letters. Since then the Delta variant has been proclaimed the predominant strain across the world, and now we have titles that look like codes to detail the differences between the variants. Last month, the UK was placed on high alert over a fast-spreading Delta AY.4.2 variant. This week, Norway reported finding another version of the Delta – AY strain. 63. Experts in the country suggest that it is no more dangerous than the Delta mutation itself. Meanwhile, another variant of Covid, discovered in France (B.1.640), gave researchers a nasty surprise: they said they had never seen such mutations.

Professor David Dockrell, from the Center for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh, told RT about the reasons for the constant mutation of the coronavirus. “The areas of the virus that are most likely to change are those that come in contact with what we call ‘selective pressures’ – or factors that force them to change,” he explains. “So a version of the virus that mutates and changes to give it a selective advantage to evade the immune system is more likely to thrive and become a dominant strain. “

Here’s how it works: the part of the virus that most immune responses (or antibodies, T cells, etc.) respond to is called the spike protein (or S protein). So the virus tries to change it to survive.

“We know that a variety of different viruses are able to mutate and change when exposed to the selective pressure of the immune system, whether it is the human immune system or other species in which these viruses have been found. evolved”, said Professor Dockrell. “And of course we’ve seen it most clearly with HIV, which is particularly effective in changing and growing. It does what’s called “reverse transcription” – it copies material backwards from DNA to RNA.

Covid always seems to run faster than humanity’s efforts to curb it, but Professor Dockrell has good news. “The coronavirus – and viruses like it – aren’t as capable of making these changes. They’re going to do it to some extent, but they’re not going to be as successful as retroviruses and HIV. ”

And the other important thing to say: When viruses make changes, there is always what we call a “fitness cost.” Many of the potential changes the virus could make will not actually help its survival. So there are only a number, potentially, of changes that the virus can make, before it begins to affect its physical form.

Now, unfortunately, we are still in a phase where Covid19 can continue to evolve and change. Now is not the time to panic, as across the world, different ways of adapting current anti-Covid strategies are already in place. First, people should keep getting vaccinated – perhaps by receiving slightly modified booster doses, suggests Professor Dockrell, “In a way, that we have, after all, to do with the flu, providing a seasonal flu shot and changing it every year.”

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how long will Covid remain a threat?  – RT World News

“And maybe we need to continue to modify some of the treatments like these new monoclonal antibodies against the virus, because they can also be limited by the emergence of a mutation of the virus which causes the S protein to evolve,” he said. he adds. he adds.

It sounds promising, but won’t it become a never-ending race against ever-emerging mutations?

Hopefully not. According to Professor Dockrell, there are parts of the virus that scientists call “conserved areas”. Over time, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies will target those areas that the virus has a hard time changing. “Obviously, the direction of the trip is to develop either vaccine responses that affect more different types of viruses or those ‘monoclonal antibodies’ that we could use to prevent or treat infection, which will target more conserved areas and will therefore be less limited by the ability of these viruses to evolve and change ”, he concludes.

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