Are we at the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic? | Health

People at the Covid-19 testing center set up at CIEP Nação Rubro Negra, in Leblon, south of Rio de Janeiro
Vanessa Ataliba/Zimel Press/O Globo Agency

People at the Covid-19 testing center set up at CIEP Nação Rubro Negra, in Leblon, south of Rio de Janeiro

The explosion of cases caused by Ômicron has not been accompanied by a significant increase in the number of deaths. From this, it begins to speculate that the new variant would indicate the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Specialists heard by GLOBO consider that, yes, this is possible. But it’s not right.

“The meaning of life is to pass the genes on. It’s no different with the virus. A virus that kills too much alerts the hosts and begins to have an evolutionary failure. The evolutionary advantage is one that is transmitted a lot, causing minimal disease Kill, then, no way. The successful person never causes disease. So, the tendency is that one day, in decades, he will turn into a cold”, explains virologist Fernando Spilki, coordinator of the Corona-omics Network, which sequence and analyzes the genome of the coronavirus throughout Brazil.

However, Spilki urges caution with this hypothesis:

“We won’t go back to 2020, but new variants will happen, not if for evolution, and, in the most optimistic perspective, this mutation would come more attenuated. But it’s biology, not an exact science, so the ideal is to try to mitigate this process through vaccination. Perhaps we are going down a path of mitigation. It is not possible to say that any variant will be more serious. The pandemic began to end when vaccination took hold, but the victory is ours and it is not because it was attenuated”.

According to the virologist, in order for this path towards the end of the pandemic to materialize, it is necessary for vaccines to undergo an update. It would be very difficult, in the short term, to get immunizations that completely block the infection, but he defends the development of vaccines closer to the mutations that have been observed in order to block the multiplication of the virus in the person, causing it to transmit less.

Another aspect under discussion is the effect of so many infected people, reinforcing natural immunization, in the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that, in the coming weeks, half of the European population should be infected by Ômicron. For Ludhmila Hajjar, intensivist and cardiology professor at Hospital das Clínicas, in São Paulo, and physician at Rede D’Or, the combination of factors is protective and supports the idea that the pandemic may come to an end.

“For the first time, we have the combination of two factors: a highly prevalent variant infecting many immunized people. This causes a high number of people to become infected with the mild form of the disease, which is good for immunization. however, let your guard down with vaccination”.

The pulmonologist, professor and researcher at Fiocruz Margareth Dalcomo wrote the column “Would Ômicron be the beginning of the end of the pandemic?” on GLOBE on January 4th. On the occasion, the doctor says that “from the historical record, we know that ‘an epidemic can last an average of two years’, referring us to the memory of others over the centuries”. She continues:

“But is Omicron really so much more contagious than Delta, more pathogenic? Or would this very different genetic pattern mean the end of the pandemic and the beginning of the end? Yes, this hypothesis would have a good biological plausibility, with a prudent distance from it and from an absolute truth. Everything so far shows us that vaccines are able to, at least, mitigate the severity of cases, since there is no substantial increase in serious hospitalizations. And, thus, Sars-CoV-2 is drawing its endemicity and becomes part of the differential diagnosis of respiratory viral diseases routinely.”

new variants

The emergence of new variants is still the biggest obstacle to actually being able to see the end of the tunnel. The geneticist and director of the Genetika Laboratory, in Curitiba, Salmo Raskin, explains that they will certainly arise. The question is how will they be:

“Omicron is infecting people who are vaccinated, but they have virtually no serious disease. But what about the next variant? Won’t the coronavirus evolve to be as infectious as Omicron and as lethal as Delta? There is no evidence to support that this variant is the end of the pandemic”.

Raskin reinforces the importance of molecular epidemiological surveillance, essential to follow the evolution of SARS-CoV-2. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this type of service has also advanced in Brazil. However, the country continues with a lack of transparency.

For the infectologist, professor of Medicine at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS) and researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Julio Croda, the scenario is optimistic, but he explains what can happen if a new variant escapes protection. vaccine clinic.

“If the vaccine stops working for hospitalization and death, adaptation in immunizations will be necessary, which takes time, and the epidemic wave would be quite important. adapted vaccines”, he ponders. “But this is not what has been shown so far. The scenario is optimistic, indicating that with time and immunity, natural or by vaccine, we will be increasingly protected against new variants, but it is impossible to predict the future with accuracy”.

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