Corona will be with us for a long time – in the form of new variants

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Experts warn that the development of new corona variants is highly unpredictable.

In the fall, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned of a possible “killer variant” of the coronavirus. Now experts are also stressing the unpredictability of the development.

Omicron subtype BA.2 is significantly more contagious

“No expert can currently say which variant we will get in the fall,” intensive care physician Stefan Kluge of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf told Funke Mediengruppe.

Experts emphasize: Next Corona variants are unpredictable.

“However, we should be prepared that another variant can come that leads to a higher severity of disease than is currently the case with the Omicron variant,” he stressed, however. Lauterbach had spoken in the “Bild am Sonntag” of a possible “tough autumn” given the vaccination gap. “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omikron variant as deadly as Delta. That would be an absolute killer variant.” The minister spoke of shorter and shorter intervals between dominant corona variants, making preparation more difficult. Various omicron subvariants that he was concerned about were currently developing.

Highly contagious omicron variant quite possible in the fall

Lauterbach is likely alluding to several Omicron sublines that have recently come into focus. BA.2 has predominated in Germany and Austria, whereas previously, it was BA.1. Recently, BA.4 and BA.5 also emerged, which the World Health Organization (WHO) also considers a cause for concern as part of Omicron. According to the WHO, evidence came from South Africa and some European countries. It said that both sublines had partly different characteristics than other Omicron variants, but details are still emerging.

Subtype called XE according to WHO mixed variant of BA.1 and BA.2

In addition, a possibly even more easily transmissible Omikron subtype has been described in Great Britain – but much is also unclear about the subtype called XE. According to WHO, it is a mixed variant of BA.1 and BA.2, a so-called recombinant. These can form not only from two subtypes but also from different variants: for example, delta and omicron, which have also been observed and sometimes called deltacron. Recombinants can form when a patient is infected with various SARS-CoV-2 pathogens simultaneously.

Similar mortality to influenza in Omicron variant currently

“We currently have less than 0.1 percent mortality with Omikron, comparable to influenza,” intensive care physician Kluge told Funke Mediengruppe. Even though he urged preparations for a possible worse variant, some voices consider it rather unlikely that the virus will become deadlier again in the future, especially for vaccinated people. Experts urge, among other things, that as many people as possible over the age of 60 should be immunized in preparation for all cases.

In the worst case, a large Corona wave with many variants conceivable

The breadth of possibilities and the uncertainty are illustrated by four scenarios that the British scientific advisory group SAGE presented for the United Kingdom in February: According to these, SARS-CoV-2 could return in the fall in the best-case scenario without more strongly altered characteristics. However, another giant wave with many severe courses is conceivable in the worst-case scenario. Between the two systems, the group mentions a somewhat optimistic and a rather pessimistic one – and emphasizes that other classes cannot be ruled out.

Corona will be with us for a long time – in the form of new variants.

The only thing that is pretty certain is that Corona will be with us for some time, also in new variants. How bad these will depend on several factors. The SAGE group sees growing importance in the issue of waning immunity and immune escape – the ability of the virus to evade antibodies from the vaccinated and the recovered. Previous waves have been driven primarily by increasingly transmissible variants, he said. Some researchers, however, believe Omicron’s high level can hardly be increased.

  • source: vienna.at/picure: pixabay.conm
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