Coronavirus has spread around the world, and has infected 8,926,050 people and killed 467,611 according to John Hopkins University. Scientists have been working non-stop on vaccines to help beat the virus, with some entering human clinical trials recently.
Professor Matteo Bassetti has claimed that the virus has weakened and is “changing in severity”.
If this continues, he claims that COVID-19 would disappear without a vaccine.
His thoughts are based on how patients in Italy are allegedly faring much better than when the virus first circulated.
Italy was one of the worst hit countries in Europe, seeing 238,499 cases and 34,634 deaths.
An expert has suggested that coronavirus may die out without a vaccine
Prof Bassetti suggested that the virus has “weakened” and is lethal now
Prof Bassetti suggests that the virus weakening could be because of a genetic mutation making it less lethal.
He also suggests improved treatments, and social distancing helping to mitigate the severity of cases.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “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.”
Coronavirus cases worldwide as of June 21
Bassetti has suggested that virus may mutate to be weaker but more infectious
His theory depends on the virus’ severity in patients being linked to their “viral load”, referring to how much of the virus enter the body.
Prof Bassetti continues: “The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity.
“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.
“Now, in the past four weeks, the picture has completely changed in terms of of patterns.”
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Bassetti adds: “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.’
Prof Bassetti has previously made similar claims in the past, but drew criticism for being over-optimistic over the virus’ severity.
He said at the beginning of June: “The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today.”
There is precedent for virus’ losing potency over time, with the NHS saying of HIV in 2014: “The optimal evolutionary strategy for a virus is to be infectious (so it creates more copies of itself) but non-lethal (so its host population doesn’t die out).
“The “poster boy” for successful long-living viruses is, arguably, the family of viruses that cause the, which has existed for thousands of years.”
Another reason the virus may be less lethal is social distancing reducing patients “viral load”
The Professor’s theories have been shot down by other scientists
But Bassetti’s claims have been slammed by other doctors, with Dr Seema Yasmin, an epidemiologist from Stanford University, saying the idea was “bulls***”.
Dr Oscar MacLean, of the University of Glasgow, added: “These claims are not supported by anything in the scientific literature, and also seem fairly implausible on genetic grounds.
“The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 mutations are extremely rare, and so whilst some infections may be attenuated by certain mutations, they are highly unlikely to be common enough to alter the nature of the virus at a national or global level…
“Making these claims on the basis of anecdotal observations from swab tests is dangerous.
“Whilst weakening of the virus through mutations is theoretically possible, it is not something we should expect, and any claims of this nature would need to be verified in a more systematic way.”