A researcher at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) has warned of the possible emergence of a new coronavirus “supervariant” in 2022 that could be a combination of the strains in circulation today and pose a “great risk” to the world. According to Swiss Sai Reddy, the new variant may be worse than Delta, which has already proven to be more transmissible than previous versions of the virus and undermine part of the protection offered by vaccines.
In an interview with the German newspaper Blick, Reddy said “that’s why we have to prepare for several vaccines in the coming years, which will be continuously adapted to new variants”.
The Swiss believes that the problem will be the risk that the Beta strains (from South Africa), Gama (from Brazil) and Delta (India) itself will undergo new modifications. “If Beta or Gamma become more contagious, or if Delta develops mutations, then we could be talking about a new phase of the pandemic,” said Reddy. “That would become the big problem for the coming year. Worse than what we are experiencing now”, he warned.
Also according to the immunologist, if such a variant appears, its rapid recognition will be crucial so that manufacturers start adapting existing vaccines as soon as possible.
The professor said that, although more contagious, the Delta variant has no escape mechanism, that is, genetic characteristics that make it escape part of the immune response created naturally or by vaccination. However, its high viral load is concerned, which makes any unvaccinated person who contracts it to become a potential “super spreader” of the virus.
“We need to fight that with a high level of antibodies, and that’s exactly what a third booster dose of the vaccine does,” said Reddy.