Novel coronavirus may resemble common cold in future’


New Delhi, Jan 13: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may resemble the mild cold-musing coronaviruses that currently cir-culate in humans if it becomes en-demic and most people are exposed in childhood, according to a study. The modelling study, published on Tuesday in the journal Science, is based on research of the four common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-1.

 The analysis of the immunological and epidemiologicaldata for these viruses helped the researchers to develop a model to predict the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 as it becomes endemic, when the virus circulates in the gen-eral population. The researchers noted that four common cold-causing coronaviruses have been circulating in humans for along time and almost everyone is infected at a young age. Natural infection in childhood provides immunity that protects people later in life against severe disease,

 but it doesn’t prevent periodic reinfection, said Jennie Lavine, from Emory University in the US, first author of the study. The re-search suggests that endemic SARS-C,oV-2 may become a disease of early childhood, where the first infection occurs between 3 and 5 years old, and the disease itself would be mild. Older individuals could still be-come infected,

 but their childhood infections would provide immune protection against severe disease, ac-cording to the researchers. How fast this shift comes depends on how fast the virus spreads and what kind of immune response the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce, they said.

 The model suggests that if the vaccines induce short-lived pro-tection against becoming reinfected but reduce the severity of the dis-ease, as is the case with other en-demic coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 may become endemic more quickly. The model predicts that the in-fection fatality ratio for SARS-CoV-2 may fall below that of seasonal influenza (0.1 per cent),

 once an en-demic steady-state is reached. A safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 could save hun-dreds of thousands of lives in the first year or two of vaccine roll-out, but continued mass vaccina-tion may be less critical once SARS-C o V-2 becomes endemic,

 the researchers said. Targeted vacci-nation in vulnerable subpopula-tions may still save lives, they said. The researchers also noted that if primary infections of children are mild when the virus becomes en-demic, widespread vaccination may not be necessary However, if primary infections become severe in chil-dren, as in the case of more deadly but contained coronaviruses such as MERS, childhood vaccinations should be continued, they added. 

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