Geneva | It is not too late to try to contain the spread of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, which has prompted many countries to isolate the United Kingdom, believes Dr Emma Hodcroft, a tracking specialist virus mutations.
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In an interview with AFP, the epidemiologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, also calls for the development of the sequencing of variations in the genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that gives rise to COVID-19, to be able to better follow the peregrinations of its inevitable mutations. She co-developed the Nextstrain project, which aims to exploit in real time the information that genetic data can provide on pathogens.
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Question: Is it too late to master the spread of the variant?
Answer: “I don’t think, at least at an international level, at a European level”, but there is a good chance that “there are more cases of this variant across Europe than we do. have not yet detected ”.
“We will never be able to prevent a virus from mutating, but we can improve our chances by limiting the number of cases”, thanks to the respect of barrier gestures (wearing a mask, social distancing, etc.).
“The less the virus circulates, the less likely it is to infect different people,” and therefore it is less likely to find favorable conditions for new mutations that always carry the risk of being even more dangerous than the original.
“We can all contribute. The best Christmas gift we can give our families is to think about our behavior and do what it takes to prevent this variant from spreading. “
In the UK, “it will be harder because it is more difficult to set limits (…) I’m not saying it’s not worth trying, but it’s going to be hard to contain (the virus) in the south-east of England, especially with Christmas coming ”.
Q: What is the impact of travel on the spread of the variant?
A: “Unfortunately, as far as we know, the Spanish variant for example which spread over the summer in Europe, has shown that travel and vacations can actually transmit the virus or variants incredibly effectively” .
“The question is, how long do you wait and try to find the balance between not acting too fast, but knowing that if you wait too long you may miss your chance to contain” the virus.
Q: How important is sequencing?
A: “The safest way to detect this variant is through sequencing,” which involves completely peeling the genetic code of the variant to see where exactly it mutated.
“The most important thing is to trace these different variants and try to identify if any of them show something worrying like a higher rate of transmission, resistance to a vaccine or a more serious form” of disease.