It has been months since the news of COVID-19 spread like wildfire in our country. While there’s still no cure or vaccine to help alleviate the situation, everyone is doing their best to stay safe and protected. However, could it be that nature is running its course and the virus is now not as potent as it was before? Is COVID weakening in strength?
Let’s find out in this article.
What Italy’s Swab Tests Reveal
Alberto Zangrillo, the head of San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, revealed a promising finding from their recent swab tests and observations. He stated that the study they had conducted shows that the coronavirus may be weakening.
According to Zangrillo, who was also a doctor to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the swab test results showed significantly less viral load and patients were exhibiting weaker symptoms.
Viral load, in simple terms, is the amount of virus present in a specific quantity of body fluid. In short, it would give you an idea as to how much virus is present in the person. Add that to the observation of weaker symptoms, the researchers came up with the conclusion that COVID-19 now is less lethal than before.
But, is COVID weakening in strength for real?
Oscar MacLean, of the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research in Scotland, disagrees. He made the following points about Zangrillo’s claim:
- Mutations in the coronavirus are truly possible, however, it’s rare.
- Some mutations may lessen the severity of the infection. But, since it’s rare, it cannot change the nature of the virus on a national or global scale.
- Making these claims about lessened lethality may be dangerous. This is because people may become relaxed and let their guards down.
So, is COVID weakening in strength?
MacLean doesn’t think so. But the people in San Rafaelle Hopistal stand firm in the results of their study. They said that the virus has “enormously weakened.” They also gained support from Matteo Bassetti. Bassetti, the head of the infectious diseases in Genoa’s San Martino Hospital, said that today, “COVID-19 is different.” According to him, it doesn’t have the same strength it had months ago.
Like SARS, Is COVID Weakening in Strength?
While some researchers found significantly less viral load in their patients’ swab test results, the others had no such luck. According to Allan Cheng, an infectious disease doctor in Melbourne, Australia, they had not seen a reduction in their patients’ viral load. He also said that he would be surprised if this truly happens as “[COVID-19 is] not a virus that mutates all that quickly.”
So, is COVID weakening in strength when not all countries experience a significant reduction in the patients’ viral load?
Another study says it’s still possible.
Arizona researchers stated that a new COVID mutation mirrors what had happened to SARS when it started to weaken. Dr. Efrem Lim, the lead author of the said study, stated that they used technology to “read through” the genetic code of the coronavirus.
According to Lim, COVID-19’s genome or genetic code has 30,000 “chemical letters.” When you analyze these letters, you will be able to get some information about the virus. This may include how the virus is adapting, spreading, or mutating.
The researchers studied a total of 382 swabs. They were surprised when one sample came out with an incomplete genome. Dr. Lim said that a total of 81 chemical letters were missing.
The researchers also indicated that those letters correspond to the virus’ “immune protein.” The immune protein gives the virus the ability to counteract the patients’ antiviral response. Because it’s deleted, we might have a weaker virus that could cause less severe symptoms.
The same thing happened with the 2003 SARS epidemic. It also underwent a mutation that significantly lessened its potency.
So, is COVID weakening in strength? Dr. Lim says it’s too soon to tell. The discovery of the missing chemical letters indicates that the virus can be transmitted even with an incomplete genome. However, as of now, it could not suggest a “weakening” of any kind.
This is because despite missing a large chunk of the genetic code, the patient from whom the sample was taken still became “somewhat sick.”
The Rate of COVID Infection in the Philippines
Is COVID weakening in strength? Unfortunately, it isn’t. That’s according to Dr. Rontgene Solante, chair of San Lazaro Hospital’s Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Section. According to Dr. Solante, as long as the virus is in the environment and the host, it will not weaken. He also mentioned that the virus could very well be a part of the Filipinos’ new normal.
The rate of infection in the Philippines still suggests that there is an on-going community transmission. UP researchers stated that while the national R naught, or the rate of infectivity, has lowered to 1.2, it is still higher than the ideal level which is 1. They forecasted that there could be about 40,000 cases by the end of June 30.
The WHO even said that it could take around 5 years before we can control the COVID-19 pandemic. The “best way out,” according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, is a vaccine. However, there will still be a lot of things to consider, especially its safety, production, and distribution.
As we wait for a cure or a vaccine, here is how you can raise your defenses against the coronavirus.
The decreased viral load and weaker symptoms exhibited by patients in Italy may be encouraging. However, many researchers say it is not enough evidence, and scientific verification is still needed. The deleted part of the virus’ code which mirrored what happened to SARS in 2003 is also promising. But even researchers agree that it does not necessarily suggest the weakening of the coronavirus.
Since there is still no definite answer, it is important to remain vigilant and protect ourselves. As advised by the DOH, we must wear a mask to reduce the risk of infection and wash our hands whenever we can. To boost our immune system, it is important to have a healthy, balanced diet and to exercise regularly.
Learn more about COVID-19 here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.