Coronavirus has had genetic mutations which have made it less aggressive, according to an Italian doctor. However, scientists disagree with his optimistic claims.
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In May, scientists started noticing that the SARS-CoV-2 genome was mutating, fearing that it evolved into a more dominant form. However, coronavirus was once described as an ‘aggressive tiger,’ but now has become milder, and ‘could go away completely without a vaccine.’
Professor Matteo Bassetti, a top Italian doctor, has observed that the virus may have become weaker as people overcome infections today that previous patients had died from. He even believes that the virus could disappear without scientists being able to develop a vaccine if coronavirus continues to weakenand eventually dies out on its own.
He said, ‘it was like an aggressive tiger in March and April but now it’s like a wild cat.’ Even those about 75 years old are having better odds of beating the virus and breathing without a machine he said. ‘The same patients would have died in two or three days before.’
In March, Italy’s daily death count surpassed the peak numbers of Wuhan’s daily rate. Without mass testing available at that time, Dr. Bassetti. Due to a delayed nationwide lockdown and high concentration of older populations, who are more vulnerable to the virus, he said that the 40,000 cases at the time ‘could actually be 100 times higher.’
As an expert in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases, Dr. Bassetti says that it’s possible that the recent genetic mutations of the virus are less lethal due to better treatment, physical distancing practices, and more frequent sanitation of public places. It’s also possible, he claims, is that people’s lungs aren’t as damaged by the new mutation as the earlier genomes of SARS-CoV-2.
Dr. Bassetti’s clinical impression is that the virus’ severity has changed because patients in March and April really struggled with COVID-19 symptoms, like developing pneumonia and needing oxygen and ventilation. In the past month, he said that this patter changed. ‘There could be a lower viral load in the respiratory tract, probably due to a genetic mutation in the virus which has not yet been demonstrated scientifically.’
The Italian doctor’s claims have been criticized by other medical experts, especially with no scientific evidence of these optimistic beliefs. In regard to SARS-CoV-2’s genetic mutation, virologist Angela Rasmussen said, ‘We have seen in other virus epidemics, such as the Ebola epidemic, that there are these mutations that seem to persist and become the dominant form of the virus.’
Dr. Rasmussen said that no evidence supports the idea of coronavirus losing potency as there is still a number of daily cases everywhere. Less transmission due to physical distancing and other lockdown regulations does not equate to less virulence.
Dr. Oscar MacLean from the University of Glasgow said that besides a lack of scientific evidence, Bassetti’s claims ‘seem fairly implausible on genetic grounds.’ Most of the coronavirus mutations had been rare and most likely did not change the virus’ nature, Dr. MacLean explained.
Theoretically, a weaker version of the virus through genetic mutation is possible, yet it should be verified before the public, anecdotal claims, added the doctor. ‘Without significantly stronger evidence, no one should unnecessarily downplay the danger this highly virulent virus poses, and risk the ongoing society-wide response.’