Newsweek Magazine: A Doomsday COVID Variant Worse Than Delta and Lambda Could Be Coming
Newsweek Magazine recently published an article featuring Eric Vail, MD, director of Molecular Pathology in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, discussing potential future variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Variants develop when viruses like SARS-CoV-2 replicate inside the body but fail to make an exact copy of their genetic material. The resulting mutation can give the virus different characteristics. Vail explained that this mutation process is how the delta variant emerged and started spreading.
"There were four variants that arose in India, and three of them had some ability to evade immunity," Vail told Newsweek. "The fourth one was delta, which didn't have as strong an evading mutation, and that's the one that spread."
Most viruses are slow to mutate, and few variants emerge that spread widely in the course of a year. But with so many people declining to get vaccinated against COVID-19, they become living "mutation labs" for SARS-CoV-2, according to Newsweek. When a virus has so many opportunities to evolve, it increases the odds that a dangerous new version will arise.
Vail believes a new variant could materialize that is even more transmissible, even though the delta variant already is five times more contagious than the original version of SARS-CoV-2. This new mutation might even be a threat to the one-third of the U.S. population that has recovered from COVID-19. Their natural immunity would be no match for this powerful version.
"It won’t be enough to guarantee that the delta variant will be the last big variant," Vail told Newsweek.