A recent scientific paper states that the new strain of corona virus, which causes an acute respiratory infection, has been transformed into a more dangerous form.
So is this really a problem we need to worry about?
“Living in fear”
The word mutation is often understood to be a drastic and fundamental change in an organism. For example, in the famous film directed by Michael Bay, the toxic waste in the sewers of New York City turned gentle turtles into “super turtles” to fight crime. However, fortunately, “fiction of mutations is still simply fiction”. The effects of mutations in real life are generally harmless.
In an analysis of the virus mutation issue on CNN, Dr. Mary Petrone and Nathan Grubaugh of the Department of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health said that the use of the idea of mutation to provoke the Fears are especially dangerous, especially when fear of the Covid-19 epidemic is increasing worldwide. “Living in fear” has led many to seek medical attention because of fear of contracting Covid-19, despite the fact that they have only a few minor symptoms such as a cold. Or a soft cough or sneeze in public also makes everyone have to look.
A question that still worries the public during an epidemic season is “Can the pathogen transform to become more dangerous?”. People may not need to worry too much about the problem. .
Mutation is a normal possibility for the survival of many new viruses and the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) is no exception. But the genetic material of the virus is RNA, not human DNA. Unlike human DNA, when viruses copy genetic material, they do not “proofread” the previous copy cycle.
In essence, RNA viruses do not check for “spelling” during the replication cycle and mistakes are frequent. These errors can be called mutations and they cause the RNA virus to mutate rapidly compared to other organisms. This may sound intimidating, but mistakes in this copying process often cause neutral or even harmful changes to newly created viruses. Neutral mutations often do not improve, nor do they interfere with the life of the virus, causing it to continue to grow and spread without any noticeable effect on the host. Mutations that are harmful to the virus are less likely to survive, which are removed through natural selection.
Fortunately, when mutations occur to make the virus more likely to spread or survive, they are often unable to make a difference in the course of an outbreak. Virus characteristics such as infection and the severity of the disease are controlled by many genes and each of these genes can affect the ability of the virus to spread in different ways. For example, a virus that causes serious symptoms is less likely to spread, if the infected person is treated properly.
As such, these features are like pieces in a rubik’s cube, just one change will cause the other pieces to change. Therefore, the likelihood of a virus navigating a complex series of changes to become more dangerous within a short period of an outbreak is very low.
Calm is an effective anti-epidemic solution
However, the ability to accept small but continuous changes of the virus will make the vaccine against corona viruses in the future less effective. While the evolution of the virus can create vaccine resistance, it usually takes years when the virus accumulates enough small changes to form a major mutation. Many vaccines against RNA viruses were developed during the 1930s and 1970s, so far they have been highly effective against diseases such as yellow fever, measles and mumps.
These viruses are thought to have a faster or faster mutation rate than corona viruses. In fact, the two strains of corona virus, S and L, were found to differ only in two small mutations, which remained 99.999% identical. Therefore, it is very likely that any vaccine that protects against one corona virus strain will also protect against another corona strain. So the reason we need a seasonal flu vaccine is to “anticipate” how the virus will reform its genome, rather than how it mutates.
Certainly, some virus mutations are really dangerous. It is possible that a series of mutations throughout the corona virus’s evolutionary history have allowed a strain of corona virus that causes bats to attack humans. Similarly, the main mutations in the HIV protein are thought to have allowed the virus to spread from chimpanzees to humans. In the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa, a mutation could have helped this virus better infect human cells.
However, linking mutations to diseases that affect public health requires long-term experimental and rigorous epidemiological investigations, which is not feasible in an outbreak. . Within this limited time, scientists can only speculate on the impact of mutations. Preliminary conclusions should not be misinterpreted as factual, distracting, causing the opportunity to build effective protective responses to public health.
For these reasons, in the middle of an outbreak, making certain statements about the nature of the virus can become unfounded and very dangerous. For example, a large controversial study in the medical community about a mutation of the Zika virus – the cause of microcephaly in infants. In 2018, when the epidemic was discovered in India, it was announced that “the circulating virus does not contain the mutation causing microcephaly” so it is not harmful to the fetus. During the outbreak, the disease may have caused pregnant women to “ignore” the dangers of Zika, which is a very difficult effect to quantify.
Going back to the “statement” that Covid-19 had transformed into a more aggressive form, perhaps only referring to the academic side, but the “cloned speculations” could negatively affect society. and public health policies. To deal with the types of “misinformation epidemics” sometimes costly is no different to the disease caused by real viruses.
Instead of just fearing for the worst, we should focus on developing effective anti-Covid-19 responses. Clear and transparent communication from scientists and government officials will be paramount in preserving public trust and encouraging them to cooperate with public health recommendations. Policies need to take into account vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, those at high risk of death and serious illness. Improving health care infrastructure, especially in communities where health care facilities are weak, will enable timely diagnostic testing to detect disease and create equity in the community.
The United States currently records nearly 1,000 cases of Covid-19 and 30 deaths. This is the truth. Experts say that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the country may have been mitigated if better preparation and local solutions were implemented soon. Therefore, instead of fearing a mutant virus, let us aggressively implement policies that reduce the dangerous spread of disease and the determination to suppress it.