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Monocle 24: The Briefing
New Strains Of CoronaVirus Are Breaking Out Worldwide
"Now anybody who has had any experience of life on this earth the last year or so. We'll be firmly of the belief that one strain of covid nineteen is more than enough as it spreads itself around the world however new variations keep being detected including one in the uk which appeared more readily transmissible a south african one which might be might be rather somewhat resistant to vaccines and brazilian one. Ditto small numbers of both of the latter have already been identified in the uk and dot dallas present elsewhere or on route. One joined with more. By dr chris smith monocle twenty fours health and correspondent also a virologist at cambridge university. Chris as we have discussed many times before all viruses mutate. What they do. Is this one doing so unusually quickly an door. Dramatically hello andrew. We don't think so in some respects. This is to be expected for the reason. You've outlined that the that all viruses mutate and change this one's no exception and therefore we're going to see a gentle drift or evolution of the virus specifically. We're going to see that happening. Most often. in parts of the world where the prevalence of the disease is highest in other words. Where you've got lots of people being infected. I'm passing the virus to lots of other people. That's loss of the roles of the genetic dice that the virus can take in order to accrue changes and optimize itself because at the end of the day viruses optimize themselves in order to spread most efficiently in their particular host and this is a new infection humans therefore it was pretty well adapted to us but not perfect. There's some room to maneuver and that's what the virus is doing. Its adjusting its behavior and its biology. A bit in order to spread most optimally among us. Humans the different variations though in different places those responses by the virus to local conditions. I guess whether it's it's climate or something else yes. Any kind of organism on earth is going to adapt itself in response to selective pressure applied by the environment in which it lives. These corona is a living in a human environment and therefore all behavior to a certain extent affects the behavior of the virus as we apply more selective pressure to it by making his job harder to spread between us for instance by social distancing through various other public health measures and spread control infection control. You'll going to select for viruses that all reproductive fitter in other words. They're better at doing what they do. And and in that way you'll get something that is usually more transmissible. That's what we saw the slight surprise here. Is this question about whether it is causing more severe illness or not now. Obviously the jury is a little bit out on this. At the moment we do have some directional data than that may be the case but it is early days of only just begun to take this trend. So we're not entirely sure whether this is a statistical artifact just a product to the fact there are lots of numbers and so the viruses is producing lots of infections. So we're seeing more severe infections or whether the genuine is evidence for higher talapity rate in each of the cases. So that figure we've been given by the uk government that suggests that the uk variant might be thirty percent More deadly which is an alarming sounding figure. Is it possible that figure is either less alarming than it sounds or actually not entirely accurate. Will the government put this across a downing street. Press briefing country balance-sheet presenting numbers in terms of deaths per thousand. And he said if you look at say a sixty year old man the risk with the parent strain of corona virus of that person passing away. If you had ten people with a thousand people with krona vars you might get ten people with die with this new variant that ten rises to thirteen or fourteen hence a forty or thirty percent increase in the mortality rate so they are nevertheless odds to emphasize the case fatality rate remains very low so in other words we haven't got something that's killing thirty percent people what we've got something that appears to based on the data that initially have been analyzed. Be a little bit more lethal as in not for the person. Obviously if you die but it's on average killing slightly more people than before but we don't know for sure if that's the case i mean. We have got a number of studies that present this london school hygiene tropical medicine of showing that the the risk ratio is about one point three five times greater with the new variant than the over one point three five. That's a thirty five percent increase. Imperial college of donna. Study then numbers range somewhere between high twenties to mid thirties. In terms of percentage increase in risk ecstasy university They did a smaller study. One point nine one was there multiple in other words. It's ninety percent worse. A public health england cited figure one and a half or so so therefore all of them seem to be centering on there being an increase in risk. But we don't know exactly how big that risk is but we think there is one but we need to reassure ourselves. This is real finding. it's not just a product of the fat. We're seeing lots of infections with this new air. It might be that. We're there foreseeing because of the disguise of the the problem more people who are at risk of having a severe infection. Cropping up with this very factional. They are trying to control for that so it doesn't like it might be real