Covid-19: what has medicine learned about the pandemic?

The SARS-CoV-2 it is a virus with high transmissibility, an unusual pathogen with which little by little we realized that the impact on society, families and lifestyles would be imminent. Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic, El Economista spoke with specialists from Arizona State University, who assure that today we understand the disease better, there are valuable lessons learned, but there are still challenges to face.

Dr. Efrem Lim, from the Faculty of Life Sciences, is a virologist and has led research efforts to understand and prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, he explains that one of the most valuable lessons is to understand that we are all connected , this is not a problem of a single country, ethnic group or community. “The beginning was in Chinabut it spread in different waves, this means that whatever solution is found, it will be able to address the global problem or extend the problem”.

On the other hand, we understood that this virus changes, this is called evolution over time and it is the natural part of the virus, that is, when it is transmitted from one person to another and replicates, it makes mistakes in its genome and most of the time this doesn’t cause much, but there are some variants that could cause more problems like Delta or Omicron, even said that soon it is very likely that we will arrive at another variant. “The more cases and transmissions, the more mutations and new variants you have.”

For her part, Dr. Mara Aspinall, from the College of Health Solutions and an expert in biomedical diagnostics, biomedicine, and diagnostic medical devices, shares that a great lesson was the triad in public policy. “A study was recently published in The Lancet in which excess mortality is compared between different countries. Those who had strict lockdowns, mask use, and access to vaccines had lower death rates.” He added that in addition to this, it is critical that the population is also very aware of these actions, since ultimately they are the ones who carry them out.

“This is still a challenge, as other studies show that there are still people who, for example, do not trust, talk about conspiracy theories, company profits and other reasons,” says Aspinall.

Vaccines and their evolution

Lim explains that in the near future vaccines will have to be brought up to date with broader protection. For example, now with Omicron mutations were presented that could evade the response of the vaccine, “and the fact is that the vaccine was really designed from the virus of two years ago, which now we can no longer even see it present, it is very different, this means that they will have to design vaccines with broader protection, to cover more spaces so that it reduces the concern.”

For this, he said that the vaccines RNA they are very effective and safe, what you have to do now is select the right ones to be able to deal with this effectively.

Regarding the reinforcements, he explains that there is still not so much data, but until now the space between one dose and another is important. If it is applied in a continuous manner and is not given the necessary time, the immune response will not be given so that it learns, but also if it is left for a long time, the immune response may decrease. He said that “the challenge is to manage this window of time to have better strategies, in addition to the fact that they will change once the vaccines are also updated, so soon we will not talk about the same vaccines that have been used until today” .

The challenges ahead

For Dr. Aspinall, one thing that hasn’t happened in most nations is that testing isn’t seen as a real strategy. She said this is important not only for individuals, but to really slow down the spread of infectious disease. “The reality is that we are going to suffer other pandemics, but if we manage to generate learning, we could see shorter times and effective actions.” That is why from the perspective of the specialist, “the tests have to be from the beginning of any other epidemic or pandemic and with constant vigilance.”

He adds that we must ensure a public-private partnership for the tests, like what happened with the vaccines, as this maximizes the viability of reaching more people, and the cost of the tests may soon reach up to two dollars. Finally, in the future you have to accept the self testsbecause it is the fastest way to obtain the largest number of people with a diagnosis.

Another of the pending questions from the point of view of the virology, Lim said, is understanding where the virus came from for the human population, whether it was from a species, and the conditions that allowed it to reach humans. “This is going to help us to prevent other pandemics or deadly viruses that could arise. The real reason for understanding the origin must be solely and exclusively to avoid future infectious diseases.

From the point of view of the specialist, after two years, with the majority of people vaccinated, with some immune responses, therapies, and immunity in the population, never the Covid-19 it will be as deadly again as in January 2020, since information is also being managed in a better way, however, this does not mean that the virus will naturally become less pathogenic, but it does mean that we are more prepared.

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