Viruses are constantly changing through mutation. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic at the end of 2019, numerous variants of the Covid-19 virus have formed. Delta is considered to be the most aggressive to date. According to scientists, new variants form in advance in the bodies of unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people are a main reason for the appearance of new variants of the coronavirus.
According to this, the virus replicates faster in unvaccinated people, which increases the likelihood of mutations. As the newest variant, Epsilon is on the radar of scientists. “This is worrying as it is more transmissible than the original strains of the virus,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, Allergy and Immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network in New York. There are first signs that the variant could be resistant to vaccines, Parikh told the US health portal “Healthline”.
Covid-19 vaccines of the new generation seem to be largely able to withstand the previously widespread variants Gamma, Lambda, Delta and Delta Plus. According to Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine, infectious diseases and virology at the University of Alabama, says that a dangerous new variant is “only a matter of time”. The clock is ticking: “Let us assume that, hypothetically, a new variant could emerge, with which we are not so lucky and the existing vaccines do not work,” says Saag. “I call this hypothetical variant Omega. This is the one we all fear. It has not yet occurred and we hope it will not. But the longer the transmission, the more likely it becomes. ” Saag is convinced that vaccinations not only break the chain of transmission, but also the chain of mutations.
Unvaccinated people play a “big role” in new variants
Vaccinated people can continue to be infected, but reduce the viral load much more quickly and thus pose a far lower risk to fellow human beings than unvaccinated people, who are an ideal host for viruses to mutate. Unvaccinated “play a major role. If everyone is vaccinated, the infections and with them the variants will drop to zero, ”explains immunologist Parikh. “But if the virus finds a host too easily, such as an unvaccinated person, it can easily mutate into a contagious and virulent form.”
One of the main characteristics of the coronavirus is the spike protein, which enables it to attach to a host cell, invade it and cause infection. It is this spike protein that the vaccines target to block the virus.
In the unvaccinated, however, the virus invades, hijacks the cell and turns it into a factory. It then makes thousands of copies of itself. If a copy error occurs, scientists speak of a mutation.
Vaccinations slow down mutations
A mutated virus can be more aggressive and enter body cells more easily. As mutations accumulate over time, new variants of a virus strain emerge. Delta has already surpassed all variants by multiplying faster and in greater numbers.
“People who have been vaccinated have a lower risk of infection, are less contagious, recover faster and also reduce the possibility of mutations,” says South African molecular biologist and virologist Sarah Downs. She documents her thesis in a long Twitter thread. A vaccination, according to Downs, means “a lower chance of a mutation”.
Virologist Saag can only agree with this. Vaccinations would make mutations and consequently the formation of new variants more difficult: “We are shouting from the roofs as best we can to warn people. These vaccines work extremely well and are safer than any other vaccine we have ever seen. I don’t see what more we could ask for. ” (kes)