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From tragic pandemic to annoying early childhood disease: this could be the parable of Covid-19 in the coming years, if the new coronavirus becomes endemic in the population also thanks to the vaccine. If SarsCoV2 followed in the footsteps of other coronaviruses responsible for the common cold, the infection could significantly lessen: according to forecasts, it could strike for the first time by 3-5 years of age with modest symptoms, and then recur in adulthood, but in even milder way. This is indicated by a new model published in Science by researchers at Emory University and Penn State University in the United States.
The study is based on epidemiological and immunological data relating to the SARS virus, that of MERS and four other human coronaviruses that have become endemic, i.e. viruses spread in the population that continue to circulate at low levels, causing mostly modest symptoms. The researchers, in particular, took into account various immunological aspects, namely the susceptibility to reinfection, the attenuation of the disease and its transmissibility in the event of a second infection.
The model, used to predict the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic over the next decade, shows that once the endemic state is reached, the lethality rate of SarsCoV2 could drop below that of seasonal flu. Exactly how long it will take remains an unknown: everything will depend on the rate of spread of the virus and the speed with which mass vaccination will be carried out.
“We are moving into uncharted territory – admits biologist Ottar Bjornstad of Penn State University -, but the key message deriving from the study is that the lethality rate and the need for mass vaccination could decline in the short term: therefore the maximum possible effort to pave the way that will lead this pandemic virus to become endemic ”.
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