Bat Woman: Covid variants will emerge, world must learn to co-exist

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Beijing, Aug 11 (IANS) As the virus continues to mutate, new variants of Covid-19 will emerge so the world must prepare to coexist with them, top Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli has said.

Zhengli, also known as the “bat woman”, renewed calls for the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the South China Morning Post reported.

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“As the number of infected cases has just become too big, this allowed the novel coronavirus more opportunities to mutate and select. New variants will continue to emerge,” she was quoted as saying.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was documented first from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. It has since, evolved into several variants, spreading across the world.

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The public should be prepared to coexist with the virus “for a long time or forever”, Professor Jin Dongyan, a molecular virologist with the University of Hong Kong was quoted as saying.

However, Dongyan also suggested that SARS-CoV-2 could eventually be eradicated like smallpox or polio as vaccines were improved.

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It is because that even with more variants, the mutation rate of SARS-CoV-2 was lower than that for influenza and HIV-1. “The virus does not have unlimited potential to mutate,” Dongyan said.

While the Covid-19 had become more transmissible, more mutations could follow as it continued to evolve — just like many other viruses.

“When it becomes best adapted, it could stabilise,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zhengli also called on the scientific community to speed up with the development of new vaccines and medications to prevent upper respiratory infection against the virus, the report said.

“The current vaccines are injected into our muscles and protect our lungs but have yet to be able to neutralise infection with our upper respiratory system,” Dongyan added.

–IANS

rvt/in

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