China’s Covid-19 surge raises odds of new coronavirus mutant

BEIJING: Can the Covid-19 outbreak in China unleash a new mutated coronavirus strain on the world?
Scientists don’t know but worry it could happen. It may be similar to the omicron variants circulating there. It can be a combination of strains. Or something completely different, they said.
“China has a very large population and limited immunity. And that seems to be the context where we could see an outbreak of a new variant,” said Dr Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University.
Each new infection creates an opportunity for the coronavirus to mutate, and the virus is spreading rapidly in China. The country of 1.4 billion people has largely abandoned the “no Covid” policy. Although the overall reported vaccination rate is high, booster vaccination rates are lower, especially in older adults. Domestic vaccines have been shown to be less effective against serious infections than Western-made versions of messenger RNA. Many were given more than a year ago, which means that immunity has weakened.
Result? Fertile ground for the virus to change.
“When we see large waves of infection, it is often followed by new variants being created,” Ray said.
About three years ago, the original version of the coronavirus spread from China to the rest of the world and was eventually replaced by the delta variant, then the omicron and its descendants, continuing to plague the world. the world today.
Dr. Shan-Lu Liu, who studies viruses at Ohio State Universitysays many existing omicron variants have been detected in China, including BF.7, which is extremely adept at evading immunity and is believed to be responsible for the current spike in spikes. .
Experts say partially immune populations like China put special pressure on the virus to change. Ray compared the virus to a boxer who “learns to dodge the skills you have and adapts to overcome those skills”.
One big unknown is whether a new variant causes more serious disease. Experts say there is no inherent biological reason for the virus to become milder over time.
“Much of the relief we’ve experienced over the past six to 12 months in many parts of the world is due to immunity that accumulates through vaccination or infection, not viruses,” says Ray. withdrawal has changed” in severity.
In China, most people have never been exposed to coronavirus. Chinese vaccines based on older technology produce fewer antibodies than messenger RNA vaccines.
Given those realities, Dr Gagandeep Kang, who studies viruses at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, said it remains to be seen whether the virus follows the same evolutionary pattern in China as it did in the US. the rest of the world or not. vaccine was born. “Or,” she asked, “will the pattern of evolution be completely different?”
Recently, the World Health Organization expressed concern about reports of serious epidemics in China. Around the cities of Baoding and Langfang outside Beijing, hospitals have run out of intensive care beds and staff as severe cases increase.
China’s plan aims to track virus centers around three municipal hospitals in each province, where samples will be taken from critically ill patients and all those who pass away each week. Hua Van Uncle of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said at a news conference on Tuesday.
He said 50 of the 130 versions of omicrons detected in China led to the outbreak. He said the country is creating a national genetic database “to track in real time” how different strains are evolving and the potential impacts on public health.
At this point, however, little is known about the genetic sequence of the virus from China, said Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.
“We didn’t know all that was going on,” Luban said. But apparently, “the pandemic is not over yet.”


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