FEARS a new Covid variant worse than the Delta and Lambda strains may emerge in the US are increasing as deadly hotspots are revealed.
On Sunday, the United States recorded 25,141 new cases of coronavirus and seven-day rolling average of 79,951 it’s highest since February and a 312 percent surge since the 19,400 average three weeks ago, reports say.
The World Health Organization (Who) is also monitoring Eta, Kappa, Iota, and Lambda – which one study found can supposedly infect the vaccinated – as hospitalizations surge amongst the unvaccinated in the US.
Richard Neher, an evolutionary biologist at Switzerland’s University of Basel told Newsweek the variant threat is “the pandemic within the pandemic.”
“Having billions of people infected presents a breeding ground for variants unlike anything we’ve ever seen with these sorts of viruses,” another biologist, Jonathan Eisen, warned.
MUTANT STRAIN EMERGES
A mutant occurs when the virus copies itself but doesn’t make a perfect replica of its genetic material. Although Covid’s mutation rate is low, an infected person could carry 10 billion copies of the virus.
Despite the rarity of these changes, a random mutation can occur which can make a new threatening variant.
But vaccine hesitancy coupled with the billions of people battling Covid and the Delta strain being one of the most transmissible viruses ever, second only to the measles, “all bets are off,” Newsweek noted.
“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if something else came along that’s even more transmissible,” Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Director of Molecular Pathology Eric Vail told the publication.
The vaccine triggers the body’s own machinery to produce antibodies by targeting the virus’ spike protein – but the variants slightly change the shape of the spike protein.
IT’S A ‘MYSTERY’
They can evade the person’s antibodies and reduce the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine, leading to breakthrough infection; but the unvaccinated remain at a deadly risk accounting for 99 percent of ICU patients.
There’s also anecdotal evidence that the Delta variant is affecting young people, much like the 1918 Spanish flu killing young adults but experts say it’s a “mystery” right now and hard to know.
What’s clear is a spin-off variant may be even deadlier than Delta – but health experts assure us that there are only so many ways the virus like Covid can mutate.
“There are only so many changes that can be made to the spike protein without making it non-functional,” Vail told Newsweek. “I’d be cautious about saying that it can keep mutating indefinitely.”
I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if something else came along that’s even more transmissible.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Director of Molecular Pathology Eric Vail
Meanwhile, hospitals in Jackonsville is surging – so much so, some Covid patients have been put in beds in the emergency room hallways in UF North, reported the Daily Mail.
Around 58 percent of Floridians have one Covid dose while 49 are fully vaccinated, the CDC reported, while Missouri – another hotspot – has seen cases rise.
Only 49.1 percent of residents in The Show-Me State have one dose and 41.5 percent fully vaccinated; epicenters there include Branson and Springfield where only one-third are fully vaccinated.
Cases are also increasing in Louisiana by 21 percent from 2,006 to 2,431 per day, according to Johns Hopkins data show, as some hard-hit hospitals run out of ICU beds and forced to convert regular ones, local reports say.
However, the seven-day rolling average of vaccines is now above 662,000 – the highest figure since July.
Around 69.9 percent of US adults have one dose of the vaccine after President Joe Biden aimed to reach 70 percent by July 4.
Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr Francis Collins told CNN’s State of the Union vaccination have increased 56 percent across the USA over the past fortnight.