Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic, it may be difficult to think more than a few months ahead. But centuries of data tell us that this pandemic will also end. Yes, it will end, the pandemic will surely end. It just doesn't mean the virus will go away forever, though. So what will its role be?
Years of data tell us that it is incredibly difficult to eradicate an infectious disease. Even with a highly effective vaccine. A study released this week in the journal Science, suggests that at the end of the pandemic, the novel coronavirus could turn into a seasonal disease in the coming years, similar to the common cold or, at worst, the annual flu virus.
How will Covid behave at the end of the pandemic?
To better understand how the new virus might behave in the years to come, the researchers looked at how other known coronaviruses work. COVID-2, the official name of the virus which causes COVID-19, it's not the first coronavirus humans have encountered. Scientists are currently aware of you are coronavirus that make humans sick. Four of them cause the common cold, which is almost exclusively a benign disease of the upper respiratory tract, and the other two - SARS and MERS - are far more deadly.
While the two killers were largely contained or eliminated, and never really spread around the world with the same speed and magnitude as SARS-CoV-2, the other four strains have become endemic in most parts of the world. world - regularly make their way through populations, spreading easily enough that they simply cannot be contained.
A systematic review
For the study, the researchers used the characteristics of the four endemic coronaviruses to model what SARS-CoV-2 might look like years after its explosion. One of the main features they looked at was the severity of the disease in children. Young children, under the age of five, typically have strong immune systems and usually have their first encounter with a common cold as well. Over time, the more they are exposed to viruses, the better their immune response and the less severe the cases they get. By the time they are older adults, they have encountered the virus so many times that their immune systems can handle it. In the case of this pandemic, however, the virus was new to everyone and as the immune system weakens with age, the elderly are much more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The study predicts that at the end of the pandemic, when most people have been exposed to the virus (hopefully more through vaccination than direct infection) the new coronavirus could eventually become an endemic virus. A virus similar to those that cause the common cold, which will mainly affect children under five. In summary: it will have the shape of a relatively benign insect.
Nobody has a crystal ball, but ...
It is obviously impossible to predict what will happen in the future, but some current data supports this model. For starters: as wonderful as the new mRNA vaccines are, none of them are 100% effective at preventing COVID-19.
It wouldn't be that far-fetched to have a vaccine that protects you from developing the worst effects of Covid, but you could be infected and you could spread it without getting sick
Jeffrey Bethony, professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
In late-stage clinical trials, both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines were 100% effective in preventing severe forms of COVID-19, showing that exposure to the coronavirus results in a less severe bout of the disease if I were to encounter it again. the virus afterwards. Additional support comes from reinfection rates. While researchers are still studying how common it is to get COVID-19 twice, it appears to be relatively rare, and when it does occur, the second cases are generally milder than the first.
Understanding long-term COVID-19 immunity, from both infection and vaccine, will take at least a couple of years.
Although there is currently good data suggesting immunity lasts up to eight months, no one knows for sure. And how dangerous the virus will be in a few years depends largely on our overall immune response to it.
One thing is certain, though: our best way out towards the end of the pandemic is widespread protection. And vaccination appears to be the best way to save most lives while generating that immunity at the same time.
Gianluca Riccio, born in 1975, is the creative director of an advertising agency, copywriter and journalist. He is affiliated with Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists. Since 2006 he directs Futuroprossimo.it, the Italian resource of Futurology.
Futuroprossimo.it is an Italian resource of futurology opened since 2006: every day news about the near future. Scientific discoveries, medical research, prototypes, concepts and predictions about the future for free.
Gianluca Riccio, copywriter and journalist - Born in 1975, he is the creative director of an advertising agency, he is affiliated with the Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists.