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WHO says no evidence of coronavirus losing potency

WHO Says No Evidence of Coronavirus Losing Potency

GENEVA – Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and a range of other scientists said on Monday that there was no evidence to support an assertion by a senior Italian doctor that the coronavirus behind the Covid-19 pandemic had lost its power.
Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of intensive care at the Italian San Raffaele hospital in Lombardy, which suffered the brunt of the Italian epidemic, said on public television on Sunday that the new coronavirus “no longer exists clinically”.
But WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove and several other experts on viruses and infectious diseases said that Dr. Zangrillo’s comments were not supported by scientific evidence.
There is no data to show that the new coronavirus is evolving significantly, either in its form of transmission or in the severity of the disease it causes, they said.
“In terms of communicability, it hasn’t changed, in terms of severity, it hasn’t changed,” Van Kerkhove told reporters.
It is not uncommon for viruses to molt and adapt as they spread. To date, the pandemic has killed more than 370,000 people and infected more than 6 million people.
Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said major studies on genetic changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause Covid-19 did not support the idea that it was becoming less powerful or weakening in any way.
“With data from over 35,000 whole virus genomes, there is currently no evidence that there is a significant difference in severity,” he said in an emailed comment.
Zangrillo, well known in Italy as the personal physician to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said his comments were supported by a study by fellow scientist Massimo Clementi which Zangrillo said would be published next week.
Zangrillo told Reuters, “We never said the virus had changed, we said that the interaction between the virus and the host had definitely changed.”
He said it could be due either to different characteristics of the virus, which he said they had not yet identified or to different characteristics in those infected.
The study by Clementi, director of the microbiology and virology laboratory at San Raffaele, compared samples of the virus from Covid-19 patients at the hospital in Milan in March with samples from patients with the disease in May.
“The result is unambiguous: an extremely significant difference between the viral load of patients admitted in March compared to” those admitted last month, said Zangrillo.
Oscar MacLean of the Center for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow said that the suggestions that the virus was getting weak were “not supported by anything in the scientific literature and also seem implausible for reasons genetic.”
Experts and officials from Johns Hopkins University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, George Washington University and Northwell Health also said they were unaware of evidence suggesting that the virus had changed.
“The Italian doctor’s suggestion is potentially dangerous because it gives false assurance based on no evidence,” said Leana Wen, an emergency doctor and professor of public health at George Washington University.
“There is no scientific evidence for a change in the coronavirus. It is a highly communicable and highly contagious disease. We must always be on our guard. ”
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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