How a COVID-19/MERS 'combination' could set off a 'whole new pandemic': report

How a COVID-19/MERS 'combination' could set off a 'whole new pandemic': report
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COVID-19 went down in history as the world's deadliest health crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, COVID-19 has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide since emerging in Wuhan, Mainland China in late 2019. That includes over 1.1 million fatalities in the United States.

Yet COVID-19 isn't nearly the menace it was in 2020 and 2021. Although COVID-19 is still highly contagious, most of 2023's infections are not fatal and do not require hospitalization. Vaccinations and booster shots do not guarantee that one will not be infected with COVID-19, but they decrease one's chances of being infected or suffering a more serious or life-threatening infection. And cases of people dying from COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated and boosted are rare.

In an article published by the Daily Beast on April 3, however, journalist David Axe explores a frightening possibility: SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19) merging with MERS-CoV (which causes MERS) and causing a "whole new" coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE:This deadly fungus spread at an 'alarming rate' during the COVID-19 pandemic: CDC

“The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly contagious, but the current dominant strains are not very lethal," Axe explains. "Its much rarer cousin in the betacoronavirus family of pathogens, MERS-CoV, is highly lethal but not very contagious. Now, imagine a blend of the two — a respiratory virus with the most dangerous qualities of both. Contagious and lethal. It’s a real risk, according to a new study from China. And it's a strong argument for a new, more widely effective vaccine.”

In Mainland China, Axe reports, a group of scientists led by virologist Qiao Wang of the Shanghai Institute of Infectious Disease and Biosecurity, has "identified" a “mechanism by which SARS and MERS could combine."

"If a single person ever catches SARS and MERS at the same time through neighboring receptors and the two viruses combine," according to Axe, “we could have a whole new pandemic on our hands — one that could be far worse than the current COVID-19 pandemic. The recombination risk is one driver of a global effort to develop new vaccines that could prevent, or reduce the severity of, infection by a variety of SARS viruses, MERS, and any hybrid of them — a universal vaccine for a whole family of viruses."

The Daily Beast journalist adds, "Good news: Universal vaccines are in development. Bad news: They're still a long way from large-scale human trials — and an even longer way from regulatory approval and widespread availability. Years, perhaps."

READ MORE:Idaho lawmakers propose bill to criminalize administering COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

Read the Daily Beast’s full report at this link (subscription required).

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