The COVID-19 pandemic, the most devastating health crisis in more than a century, enters its third year in March. As of January 14, there have been about 317 million COVID-19 cases and 5.5 million related deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. The United States has counted about 62.5 million COVID-19 cases and 840,000 related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing COVID-19, and the resulting human strain and societal and economic disruption have led to an unprecedented worldwide collection of research efforts. SARS-CoV-2 has become perhaps the most studied virus in history.
This is reflected in PubMed, the database maintained by the National Institutes of Health. A search of the database on January 14 using the term “COVID-19” fetched 217,349 citations related to the disease.
It’s in just 2 years. In comparison, a search for “flu” showed 145,583 citations throughout the database. HIV had multiple entries (390,846), but it is for research published during the approximately 4 decades ago that the virus was first recognized.
COVID-19 research efforts to date have identified risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection, characterized the spectrum of clinical manifestations of infection, and reset which treatments are effective and which are not. Such knowledge could lead to improved infection control measures and treatments for SARS-CoV-2 and perhaps better prepare us for any epidemic or pandemic that comes next time.
The second year of the pandemic ends with the emergence of a SARS-CoV-2 variant called the Omicron. This variant is extremely transmissible, and experts say they have never seen such a contagious virus. But it seems to cause milder disease than other variants. It is still unclear what the appearance of this less virulent form of the virus means for the path of the pandemic.
Like pandemics before that, this one will end eventually. The massive efforts that are being made to vaccinate humans against the virus have slowed its spread, but there are still challenges in persuading millions of reluctant individuals to get their shots. SARS-CoV-2 can become endemic as a seasonal flu where people learn to live with it, experts say. Meanwhile, researchers around the globe are continuing to study COVID-19 from all scientific angles, and are likely to do so in the coming years.
From the January 1, 2022 issue of Renal and Urology News