New variants will emerge in the future. This is what China’s virologist Shi Zhengli, also known as “bat woman,” and the head of the Wuhan lab, predicted. Meanwhile, nations around the world are battling the lethal Delta variant of COVID-19, which was one of the causes of India’s disastrous second wave.
“We shouldn’t panic, but we do need to plan for long-term coexistence with the virus,” Zhengli said. She went on to say that the virus had “become too big,” allowing it to “mutate and select.” Vaccines, on the other hand, remain critical, according to Zhengli, who claims that while they cannot prevent people from becoming infected, they can reduce the severity of the cases.
Delta’s “superpower,” according to Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, is its transmissibility. When compared to the original version of the coronavirus, people infected with Delta have 1,260 times more virus in their noses, according to Chinese researchers.
While the original coronavirus could cause symptoms for up to seven days, Delta can cause symptoms in two to three days, giving the immune system less time to respond and mount a defence. Delta appears to be mutating even more, with reports of a “Delta Plus” variant, a sub-lineage with an additional mutation that has been shown to evade immune protection.
Delta Plus was listed as a variant of concern in India in June, but neither the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the World Health Organization have done so.
The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently warned that unless more Americans get vaccinated, the country could be in trouble, as a large pool of unvaccinated people allows the virus to spread and mutate into new variants.
Zhengli, China’s top virologist, expressed concern after Wuhan authorities tested all 11 million residents following an outbreak among migrant workers. Wuhan, which first reported the virus in 2019, had reported zero cases for several months, but the highly transmissible Delta variant has spread rapidly across the country in recent weeks, with Nanjing becoming the virus’s epicentre.