January 30, 2023

The wave of COVID infection caused by the BA.5 subvariable has reached its peak. Worldwide, daily new cases, hospitalizations and deaths go down.

But the SARS-CoV-2 virus is almost certainly here to stay. Another almost inevitable wave as new variables and sub-variables shift, vying for dominance and finding new paths of transmission.

It is likely that the reason for the emergence of this wave and how bad it is due to the genetic competition between the different mutations of the new Corona virus. If we’re lucky, a milder form of the virus wins out – and buys us time to prepare for a virus worst The form of the virus that is almost certain, sooner or later.

if it was have Abad luckThis is the worst one that comes sooner.

The scientific community does not take anything for granted. “What we’ve learned from this pandemic is to expect the unexpected,” University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins told The Daily Beast.

BA.5, an offshoot of the primary Omicron variant, was still prevalent when epidemiologists began searching for the version of COVID that might come after, after BA 5. They have identified two main possibilities.

The best possible odds is another form of Omicron, which is an altered form that our immune system recognizes and knows how to overcome. The worst is a completely new type that may override the antibodies. Pi, Rho or Sigma variant, if you will.

Either outcome is possible. The one thing experts don’t expect is that COVID will go away. “The virus has always figured out a way to survive,” John Schwartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, told The Daily Beast. “I don’t see anything to indicate that she will not continue to do that.”

BA.5 is the third major variant of Omicron, and is the same as the third major variant of the virus after Alpha and Delta. BA.1, the baseline Omicron, became dominant late last year, replacing the delta variants.

BA.1 was not as lethal as Delta, mostly due to diffuse immunity from previous vaccines and infection. The worst day for BA.1, 13,000 deaths on February 9, was less catastrophic than the worst day for Delta deaths, 18,000 on January 20.

But BA.1 was road More contagious than delta. Some epidemiologists have described it as the most transmissible respiratory virus they have ever seen. BA.1 led a record wave of infections that peaked at 4.1 million new cases globally on January 19.

But if we get Pi, Rho or Sigma, then prepare for possible disaster.

The BA.1 wave led to smaller increases in cases with new Omicron subvariants taking over. BA.1 cases reduced in February; BA.2 brought them back in March. BA.2 injuries subsided in May. BA.5 brought them back in June.

The increase in BA.5 peaked with 1.6 million new cases on July 20 and 4,500 deaths on July 27. Now the injuries and deaths are going down Almost everywhere not in Japan.

The relative decline in COVID contrasts with the still widespread suffering, by pre-pandemic standards. “It’s a reflection of what we’ve experienced over the past few years that we could be in a situation with over 120,000 new known infections per day, over 43,000 hospitalizations per day – with 5,000 in intensive care units – and 450 deaths per day. [in the U.S.] And get in the mindset of thinking, “It’s not so bad, we’ve seen worse,” University of South Carolina epidemiologist Anthony Alberg told The Daily Beast.

The delay is temporary. If the past 32 months are any indication, the next wave of COVID will spread this winter. The only variable is the shape of the virus. Is the next dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 the fourth major subfactor of Omicron? Or a completely new variant?

The distinction is very important. All Omicron substrains share certain key mutations, particularly around the virus’s spiky protein, which is part of the pathogen that helps it grab onto and infect our cells.

Currently, billions of people have antibodies that recognize those mutations, whether the antibodies are from a very safe and effective vaccine or from a previous infection. It is the continuous buildup of immunity over the past two years that has kept death rates low even as infection rates have risen. Many people have contracted the coronavirus since last winter – some for the second or third time. Most had mild cases.

If another descendant of Omicron becomes dominant in the next few months, this trend should continue. There will likely That there is an increase in the number of cases for a period of weeks. but death may be Only a slight increase.

Our antibodies are ready, said Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida’s Center for Infectious Disease Research in Global Health, as he built sophisticated computer models to simulate the COVID pandemic.

“Naturally acquired immunity is long-lasting, estimated at about 2.5 years in our models, and therefore new infections appear mostly in those who lose their vaccine-induced immunity that degrades faster,” Michael told The Daily Beast. “This results in a steady but smaller ups and downs of states, and fluctuations or oscillations get progressively smaller over time until an apparent endemic steady state is reached.”

But if we get Pi, Rho or Sigma, then prepare for possible disaster.

New variants of the virus become dominant through radical mutations that dramatically change how the pathogen behaves — and gives it an edge over its predecessors. With each new variant, there is a possibility that it will change so much that our antibodies no longer recognize it. “A major genetic mutation would greatly increase their ability to infect humans regardless of their previous vaccination and infection status,” according to Alberg.

Epidemiologists call this “immune escape.” It’s a nightmare scenario when it comes to viruses.

Michael modeled the impulsivity of a key immune escape variant. How bad it gets depends on whether the new variant avoids antibodies caused by the vaccine, natural antibodies from a previous infection, or both. “If immune evasion works similarly on both forms of immunity, you’ll get repetitive, remarkably large waves that form depending on the exact rate and strength with which escaping occurs,” Michael said.

There are reasons to believe that another Omicron subspecies is likely to come next. Geneticists examining viral samples have noticed four forms of Omicron vying for dominance in recent weeks. Bachelor’s degree 5 of course. But also BA 5.2, BA 2.75 and BA.4.6.

BA.5.2 is a slightly mutated form of BA.5 and may not have enough advantages to overtake its predecessor, Christian Andersen, director of infectious disease genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, told The Daily Beast. “So I think we’ll see BA.2.75 or something completely different become dominant.”

This “completely different thing” has not yet appeared in viral surveillance, which means that BA.2.75 may have a head start.

If there is a wild card, it might be BA.4.6, which is an alternative to BA.4, which is a close cousin of BA.5. “We don’t know much about .4.6 in terms of structure,” Schwartzberg said. BA.4.6 likely mutated for significant immune escape despite being just another variant of Omicron. “We can hope that the new variant of Omicron will be very successful in evading immunity [that] It could be a serious problem for us.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Schwartzberg said sarcastically.

However, as long as Omicron and its descendants are in control, there is a good chance that the next COVID wave will be rather small. This gives us time to prepare for a wave afterward—and the increased possibility, over time, that some elusive immune variants will eventually emerge.

No one is expecting another round of major lockdowns, even with a new and highly elusive form of COVID across the planet. Alternatively, our best tool against Pi, Rho or Sigma may be new combinations of messenger-RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

mRNA is flexible in nature. It is a plug-and-play delivery system for small scraps of genetic material that stimulate a specific immune response. Change the genetic material and change the vaccine — and the antibodies it causes.

Current mRNA vaccines are designed for the Alpha variant, although they still work well against Delta and Omicron. Anticipating an immune escape variant to come, Pfizer and Moderna are working on new “polyvalent” vaccine formulations with broader efficacy against a broader range of SARS-CoV-2 variants.

But these new formulas are not quite ready. Moderna and Pfizer in Massachusetts have both conducted large-scale trials of multivalent vaccines, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still scrutinizing the data.

Whether and when the FDA approves new vaccine blends, a prerequisite for health agencies in many other countries to do the same, could depend on whether and when an immune escape variant emerges. Swartzberg said the new punches could gain FDA approval in about a month.

It is clear that regulators would prefer to study new formulations without the pressure of a significant rise in injuries and deaths. And they might get that, if the next wave is a BA.2.75 wave rather than something potentially much worse.

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