What the Future May Hold for the Coronavirus and Us – The New York Times

Posted: October 15, 2021 at 9:20 pm

As the virus spread, more mutations sprang up, giving rise to even more transmissible variants. First came Alpha, which was about 50 percent more infectious than the original virus, and soon Delta, which was, in turn, roughly 50 percent more infectious than Alpha.

Now were basically in a Delta pandemic, said Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University. So another surge, another spread of a slightly better variant.

Although some experts were surprised to see the hyperinfectious variant, which has more than a dozen notable mutations, emerge so quickly, the appearance of more transmissible variants is textbook viral evolution.

Its hard to imagine that the virus is going to pop into a new species perfectly formed for that species, said Andrew Read, an evolutionary microbiologist at Penn State University. Its bound to do some adaptation.

But scientists dont expect this process to continue forever.

There are likely to be some basic biological limits on just how infectious a particular virus can become, based on its intrinsic properties. Viruses that are well adapted to humans, such as measles and the seasonal influenza, are not constantly becoming more infectious, Dr. Bloom noted.

It is not entirely clear what the constraints on transmissibility are, he added, but at the very least, the new coronavirus cannot replicate infinitely fast or travel infinitely far.

Transmission requires one person to somehow exhale or cough or breathe out the virus, and it to land in someone elses airway and infect them, Dr. Bloom said. There are just limits to that process. Its never going to be the case that Im sitting here in my office, and Im giving it to someone on the other side of Seattle, right?

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What the Future May Hold for the Coronavirus and Us - The New York Times

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