According to a recent lab study which used coronavirus samples from an immunosuppressed person over a six month, it was discovered that the virus has evolved enough to become more pathogenic suggesting that the new variant could cause worse illness than the current Omicron strain.
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strain of coronavirus has been a nightmare for the world with several subvariants coming up every few weeks and months. The vaccine-immune strain resulted in mild infections and few cases of hospitalisation, but it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. According to a recent lab study that used coronavirus samples from an immunosuppressed person over a six months, it was discovered that the virus has evolved enough to become more pathogenic suggesting that the new variant could cause worse illness than the current Omicron strain.
The study was conducted by experts at the same South African lab which was the first to test Omicron against vaccines in 2021 by taking samples from an HIV-positive patient. At first, the virus resulted in the same cell fusion and death as the BA.1 strain of Omicron; however, it later evolved to become similar to the first version of the virus discovered in Wuhan, China.
The lab study revealed that the pathogen could continue to mutate to make a new variant capable of causing more severe illness and death than the relatively mild Omicron strain. Led by an expert at the African Health Research Institute in Durban, previous studies revealed that variants like Omicron and beta were initially discovered in South Africa
and may have over time evolved in immunosuppressed people such as HIV patients.
In these cases, the long time taken by such people to get rid of the disease lets the virus mutate and evade antibodies. The new study, therefore, may indicate that SARS-CoV-2 evolution in a long-term infection does not always result in attenuation. Therefore, it could mean that future mutations are likely to be more pathogenic than the currently-circulating strains.
German virologist Christian Drosten
also expressed concerns about whether China could spawn a new variant if infections and new cases can be curbed. China is currently the only major country still trying to curb the transmission of the virus which was first detected in Wuhan in August 2019.