Martina Bcares: “The coronavirus vaccine could take a year, not from one day to the next” – La Provincia


Biotechnologist Martina Bcares, an expert doctor in coronavirus, explains some details about the nomenclature, its origin and the importance of controlling it to prevent its spread from jeopardizing health services.

Let’s start with an explanation on the subject. What is a coronavirus and what sets Covid-19 apart from the rest?

The coronavirus they are a family of viruses whose genetic material is RNA. There are different types of coronaviruses, which infect humans and animals. Up to seven are known to affect humans. Four of them cause very mild pathologies, such as common colds, while three cause serious pathologies. They are the Sars virus, which emerged in 2002, the Mers virus, which is from 2012, and now the virus causing Covid-19, which should technically be called Sars-2.

Why do we know it directly as coronavirus?

Possibly it is because it has been called that in the media. Covid is a disease caused by coronavirus, and 19 is for the year it started in China. But experts who are dedicated to the nomenclature of viruses prefer to call it Sars-2.

What similarities and differences does this virus have with the Sars that was detected in 2002?

Viruses are quite similar on a genetic level. In sequence they are 86% alike and in the disease it also has a lot of homology. They both have the same cellular receptor. That is, they enter the cell through the same door, so to speak, and cause lung disease, pneumonia. The difference seems to be at the epidemiological level. Sars was effectively controlled. It appeared in 2002 and in 2003 the disease had been eradicated because it was so well contained in China. Sars-2, which we know as coronavirus, seems to cause mild pathology in most of those infected (80%), while with Sars, which emerged in 2002, a higher percentage of those affected developed severe pneumonia. However, the Sars-2 virus appears to spread more easily among the population, although this claim is still preliminary.

Regarding the spread of the virus, what measures can be really useful?

It is a virus that is mainly spread by the droplets that come out of our mouth and our nose when speaking, coughing, sneezing and others. And, as I said before, it has a high capacity to spread in the population. Therefore, avoiding contact with other people is the most effective measure to stop contagion.

Is mass contagion inevitable if very restrictive measures are not taken?

What happens is that this is a new virus. As such, the population is not immunized against it, as is the case with other common viruses. With the common flu, although it is a virus that has nothing to do with it and that changes constantly, almost all of us pass it little by little. So, we have antibodies against it, which protect us and prevent us from infecting another person. This is what is known as immunity in the population. When people have immunity, it is more difficult for them to pass it on to others. Being a new virus, the population does not have this immunity and the contagion is very easy. For this reason, isolation and quarantine measures are being taken to delay the spread of the population.

To what extent is it important to have a more staggered contagion and to avoid high peaks?

Delaying the contagion of people, in the first place, can give time for the development of vaccines, but above all it allows not to collapse the health system. If we know that even with the flu hospitals collapse, in this case in which it seems that the disease is transmitted better, that there is no immunity and that some data indicates that seriously ill patients need more hospitalization time, we need these containment measures so as not to collapse the system.

How long can the effort that citizens will have to make to stop the curve last?

We will have to see the evolution. Possibly, in these next 4 or 5 days the number of reported cases will continue to increase exponentially, since the infections that have already occurred will be detected. But from there you should start to see a reduction in the number of cases, and in about two weeks there should be a clear change in the trend of the number of infected curve, which would indicate that the epidemic has stopped.

How does the possibility of getting a vaccine evolve?

It is working, but the limitation is time. Developing a vaccine is not done today for tomorrow. There are clinical trials to prove that it is effective, and it is estimated that it could take at least a year.

Are there people who have the disease asymptomatically?

In principle, it seems so. Especially in the case of young people, they may be asymptomatic or think that we are having a cold. Most of the affected cases develop fever, so if we don’t have it we can rest easy.

Does heat help prevent the spread of the virus?

Possibly yes, but it is not something that is known for sure. The heat and, above all, the longest hours of sun should harm the virus. Anyway, it should be borne in mind that, when it is summer here, in the southern hemisphere, where there are cases, it will be winter, so transmission will not be stopped 100 percent.

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