As the world battles soaring cases and deaths stemming from the highly-infectious Delta Covid-19 variant, experts are warning things could get worse — much worse.
Multiple variants of coronavirus such as Alpha, Beta or Delta could merge into one far deadlier variant over time, a research paper published this week by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) says.
If that occurs, Covid could turn into something similar to Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS, which had a 35 per cent fatality rate, the paper claimed.
MERS was first found in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
SAGE warned it is a “realistic possibility” and added that “even in the face of vaccination” morbidity and mortality rates would increase because vaccines “do not fully prevent infection in most individuals”.
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology, University of Reading, told The Sun while it is possible, it is not inevitable.
“While it is rare for two viruses to combine, it does happen, it’s called a ‘recombination event’ and is perfectly possible. It’s well documented with flu, for instance,” he said.
“There are multiple potential outcomes from this, but there’s no reason why it could not generate a more lethal variant.”
If Covid was to become as deadly as MERS, the mortality rate would be 10 to 30 times more deadly than it currently is. Covid-19’s current mortality rate in Australia is believed to be about two per cent.
SAGE made a number of suggestions on how to mitigate risk with a possible variant mutation including vaccine booster shots and strategies to reduce transmission.
The panel also advised there is a chance the virus could become less hostile, which is unrealistic in the short-term but realistic in the long-term.
In this instance, Covid-19 would be an “endemic infection” like a common cold, with less severe harm to older and vulnerable parts of the population.
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