'Coronavirus is weakening, could disappear on its own'

While WHO reports jump in daily infection rate, Italian infectious disease expert says coronavirus is weakening, might disappear.

David Rosenberg ,

Treating the coronavirus
Treating the coronavirus
iStock

The daily confirmed infection rate of the coronavirus hit an all-time high over the weekend, but at least one expert on infectious diseases says the severity of the virus may be in decline, making the coronavirus less deadly.

The World Health Organization recorded the largest single-day increase in the number of new coronavirus cases Sunday, with more than 183,000 new cases in a 24-hour period.

The recent resurgence of the pandemic, which had been waning in a number of countries, prompted the WHO to warn Friday that the pandemic is entering a “new and dangerous phase”.

But Dr. Matteo Bassetti, the chief of the infectious diseases clinic at San Martino Hospital, said over the weekend that the coronavirus has become less deadly, turning from a “tiger to a wild cat”.

"The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity," Dr. Bassetti told The Telegraph.

"In March and early April the patterns were completely different. People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult to manage illness and they needed oxygen and ventilation, some developed pneumonia.”

In the last month, however, Dr. Bassetti says the “picture has completely changed” regarding the virus’ deadliness.

“There could be a lower viral load in the respiratory tract, probably due to a genetic mutation in the virus which has not yet been demonstrated scientifically. Also we are now more aware of the disease and able to manage it.”

The coronavirus, which has in the past exhibited a far higher fatality rate among elderly patients and those with certain preexisting conditions than the seasonal flu, now appears to be far less dangerous, even to patients in high-risk age groups, said Dr. Bassetti.

"It was like an aggressive tiger in March and April but now it's like a wild cat. Even elderly patients, aged 80 or 90, are now sitting up in bed and they are breathing without help. The same patients would have died in two or three days before.”

Dr. Bassetti speculates that the coronavirus has mutated after provoking immune system reactions from people it has infected, adding that the new strains of the virus appear to have a lower viral load, making them less dangerous.

He even expressed optimism that the virus could “go away completely without a vaccine”, and pointed to a declining fatality rate.

Not all researchers share Dr. Bassetti’s outlook, however.

University of Exerter Medical School clinical lecturer Dr. Bharat Pankhania said the virus is unlikely to die out quickly, calling Dr. Bassetti’s prediction overly optimistic in the short term.

Pankhania said the virus could remain a permanent threat, or in the best case scenario, disappear after a number of years.



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