Fears about a more lethal Covid virus have been driven in particular by the emergence of the Indian variant in recent months. Anecdotal evidence from India suggests the new strain is causing more illness in younger people and is not as easy to treat. Scientists believe it is more contagious than earlier forms of the Covid virus and is responsible for the huge surge in new infections that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s medical system.
Over 200,000 new Covid cases were recorded on Wednesday by Indian health authorities, while the UK reported a total of 77 infections overall.
Various experts have also described the new strain as having the “hallmarks of a very dangerous virus” and as being a “variant of concern”.
However, Denis Kinane, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at Cignpost Diagnostics Ltd, told Express.co.uk that the Covid virus was most likely to follow a similar trajectory to other coronaviruses, even if there are “blips” along the way.
The immunologist, whose company carries out PCR-tests for major corporations like the BBC, said: “The overall pressure is going to be towards more transmissible and less virulent and less pathogenic – that’s the overall trend.
“That is not to say that there will not be blips on the road.
“Even with the Spanish flu we had one wave and then another wave that came back and hit us even more, so that we do get these changes in variants.”
He added: “The overall trend is that it will become less (virulent) and that’s been seen with coronaviruses in the past.
“That is going to be the overall line if you like. Whether you get blips and we do have blips is another thing.”
There are concerns that current vaccines will be less effective against emerging Covid variants.
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Recent studies showed that AstraZeneca’s vaccine had only a 10.4 percent efficacy against mild-to-moderate infections caused by the South Africa variant.
Similarly, an Israeli study found that the South African variant may be able to evade protection provided by the Pfizer vaccine to some extent.
Mr Kinane, though, is confident that present vaccines will be able to cope with the variants and that only a major mutation would change the outlook.
He said: “Most of the vaccinations out there are well capable of dealing with any variant that is going to come along.
“To be a variant that would actually bypass the (immune) system and there have been suggestions that the South African variant is actually more capable of bypassing the immune system – but to actually do that any new variant that is going to be even more effective at bypassing vaccinations let’s say than the South African variant – is going to have to change enormously.”
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The irony of the situation is that the more successful vaccination campaigns are, the more likely it is that new variants are going to emerge.
The co-founder of Cignpost Diagnostics Ltd explained: “One of the arguments and one of the discussions you might have later when we are much more protected by vaccines is whether with that high level of vaccination within the community, whether we might be , let’s say, a spawning ground for new variants.
“That’s likely because typical evolutionary pressures will be on the virus to actually mutate in order to be able to survive despite the fact that a large proportion of the population has been vaccinated.
“There will be some pressure that way.”