neurodegenerative diseases following this pandemic, although some have debated the idea. So, the long-term neurological health risks of Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2 are unclear.
Cases of Parkinsonism from Covid-19: What to Make of It?
Scientists called it the third silent wave, but there are a few things to consider.
6. Unknown SARS-CoV-2 evolution
Nearly a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, announced March 2020, we have seen three problematic mutations in SARS-CoV-2 that changed its behavior slightly. These mutations are D614G, N501Y, and E484K. Reinfections from these mutants have happened, which means we cannot rely on immunity achieved from natural infections to guarantee life-long protection. However, since vaccines stimulate stronger immunization than natural infections, vaccines would lower the risks of future SARS-CoV-2 reinfections.
Moreover, the E484K mutant can evade human antibodies, at least in lab settings, raising concerns for vaccine efficacy. But Covid-19 vaccines would most likely still be effective since they induce T-cell immunity — in addition to B-cell antibodies — that the E484K mutant can’t escape.
Who knows what SARS-CoV-2 mutants will emerge if we let the coronavirus run rampant in human populations. Even animals susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 — such as minks — have to be monitored. Viral evolution accelerates in a different species, which led to the slaughter of millions of minks a few months ago — to prevent the possible evolution of an unknown entity. Another SARS-CoV-3 or coronavirus pandemic is the last thing we want.
When immunologists culture the novel coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — in the presence of low amounts of human antibodies, it gained three mutations that endowed it with antibody evasion abilities within 90 days. One of the mutations is E484K in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, where amino acid at position 484 mutated from glutamic acid (E) to lysine (K).
“The experiment wasn’t necessarily supposed to work,” said Jason S. McLellan, an associate professor specializing in virology and co-author of the study (released as pre-print) that artificially evolved SARS-CoV-2 in the lab.
The first proven coronavirus reinfection occurred in August 2020, where a 33-year-old man got reinfected with a different SARS-CoV-2 variant or strain with the D614G mutation. The detection of two distinct SARS-CoV-2 strains rules out the possibility of viral reactivation or persistence that may be caused by the same initial virus.
Soon, more reports of reinfections emerged, nearly all of which were due to the D614G mutation. Now, with the advent of N501Y mutation in the U.K. and South Africa, which has spread to over 20 more countries, more reinfection cases can be expected.
The recent advent of a new coronavirus strain or variant in the U.K. and other countries — called N501Y (or VUI-2020/01 or lineage B.1.1.7) — have raised only concerns. The vaccine efficacy is questioned. The increased transmissibility would mean higher death counts, even though the virus’s lethality remains the same.
“With increased transmissibility and similar disease severity, the variant does, however, raise alarm: without increased control to slow its spread, there will be an increased impact on already stressed and pressurized health facilities,” Hans Henri P. Kluge, MD, Regional Director for Europe at the WHO, said in a statement yesterday.
However, a paper published in the journal Immunological Letters this month, titled “Are the emerging SARS-COV-2 mutations friend or foe?” offers interesting insights into the coronavirus mutations, arguing why such mutations may not be entirely unfavorable for humans.
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