Next variant should be more lethal than Omicron | metropolises

Virologist Alex Sigal, from the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, believes that the next variant of the coronavirus could cause more severe symptoms and become more lethal than Omicron. The researcher works in the same laboratory that first tested how Ômicron reacted to older vaccines.

Its conclusion is based on the analysis of the evolution of the coronavirus in an immunosuppressed patient with HIV who harbored Sars-CoV-2 for six months. He is one of the oldest known vectors of Omicron.

People with compromised immune systems cannot properly eliminate the virus, which allows it to replicate and mutate repeatedly. This process can lead to the emergence of new variants that are more adapted to the environment.

The scientists sequenced samples of the virus present in the blood collected from the patient throughout the study – right after the diagnosis, at the end of the first month, at three months and at the end of the sixth month – to study its evolution.

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Early in infection, the virus caused the same level of cell fusion and death as the BA.1 subvariant. Over time, it evolved and was responsible for more cell death and fusion, leading to increased inflammation in the lungs.

With six months, approximately on day 190 of the infection, the virus became similar to the ancestral version, identified in Wuhan, considered more lethal than Omicron. The discovery suggests that the mutations could lead to a new variant that causes more serious conditions and deaths.

“The initial virus has been attenuated. However, by the parameters we measured, it has become stronger, showing that long-term evolution does not always lead to a weaker variant. So the next major strain, if it comes, may not necessarily be as mild as Omicron,” Sigal wrote on Twitter.

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