GENEVA: Despite a number of mutations involving the SARS-CoV-2 virus, none of these – including the latest variant in Britain – has had a significant impact on its susceptibility to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or vaccines under development, say health experts.
The Xinhua news agency reported World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan as saying the SARS-CoV-2 virus had mutated much more slowly than the influenza virus.The influenza virus requires for its vaccine strains to be reviewed and revised each year based on the circulating strains prevalent that year.
“So far, although we’ve seen a number of changes and mutations, none has made a significant impact on the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development, ” she said during a briefing yesterday.
She added, however, that it was important to continuously monitor the virus, with the focus on bringing transmissions down.
“The more viruses you have in circulation, the more chances there are for mutations and for such variants to arise.
“The bottom line here is to keep the virus transmissions and circulation low. Don’t allow it to get out of hand and spread in the population. That way, we can keep the mutations down, ” she said.
WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme executive director Dr Mike Ryan said even with the latest variant, “there’s zero evidence at this point of any increase in severity associated with the disease”.
He said no variants had yet established themselves as “having any higher level of severity, invading our diagnostics or hiding from vaccines or the effectiveness of vaccines”.
Britain reported to WHO on Dec 14 that a SARS-CoV-2 variant had been associated with a rise in R0, the infectivity rate, from 1.1 to 1.5.
“Even if the virus has become a bit more efficient in spreading, it can be stopped, ” said Dr Ryan.
“We’ve had R0s much higher than 1.5 at different points of this pandemic and we have got it under control. This situation is not in that sense out of control, but it cannot be left to its own devices, ” he said.
The WHO experts urged the public to keep implementing existing public health measures. — Bernama