‘The variants? Virus if it doesn’t fit dies’

A virus changes because it has to adapt: ​​if it doesn’t, it dies. SarS-CoV-2, which most likely comes from bats, is adapting to humans and therefore must mutate to enter the body and survive. Its goal is not to kill the host, but to replicate itself within it“He states it Carlo Federico Perno, Director of the Department of Microbiology, Irccs Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome, in the fifth and last testimony of the second edition of A/Way Together, the project by Janssen – the pharmaceutical company of the Johnson & Johnson group – which involves 5 excellences of Italian infectious disease. Objective of the initiative: to clarify the importance that vaccines have played in human history.

More than a year after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Perno takes stock of what we have learned about the SARS-CoV-2 virus: “Never in the history of medicine – says the infectious disease specialist – have we managed to accumulate such a large amount of information, varied and rich on a virus. But there is a lot to learn and many aspects to work on, because too many details still escape us ”.

What worries experts and public opinion are above all the so-called variants. It is no coincidence that Perno focuses on the theme of mutations. “Some viruses are able to adapt and replicate easily, while others less – he explains – and SarS-CoV, virus of 2003, which also caused the death of about 8 thousand people, has never completely adapted to humans, with the result which disappeared by itself, without the need for a vaccine. It SarS-CoV-2, the virus we are dealing with today, on the contrary, it fits very well, as we see from the so-called variants“.


“Today – continues Perno – we are talking about Brazilian, South African and English variants, but in reality we now have children and grandchildren of these variants, because the virus continues to adapt differently in certain geographic areas because people’s genetics make a difference. Let’s not forget – he adds – that it was the same for HIV, for which we have a virus in the areas of Western Europe and America that is different from the African one ”he added.

On the possibility of a weakening of the virus, Perno has no doubts: “The weakening of a virus occurs when it is no longer able to replicate – points out -. In the absence of vaccines and other factors, we will have an increase in its ability to replicate. This does not mean that we will have a strengthening of the pathology because an intelligent virus tends to replicate more and more but also to do less damage, because by killing the host, in fact, it hurts itself. If there were no vaccines – adds the expert – there would be a strengthening of the virus as a replicative activity. There will likely be a decline in his damage-doing power over the next few months. Furthermore, coronaviruses, with increasing temperature, have less replicative infectious capacity”.

The infectious disease specialist, despite the vaccination campaign in progress, still invites attention to be kept high: “We live in an environment rich in living beings that interact with us – says Perno -. These interactions have also increased due to climate change and the modifications we have generated on the planet: we think about how, through deforestation, humans are in contact with animals much more than they were in the past. Animals are carriers of viruses that can transfer to humans and produce pathologies, an example for all: Sars-Cov-2. What happened today – he concludes – and that we will certainly stem in the near future, is only the latest case of something that will continue to happen if we do not keep our attention high “.


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