With news, the BA.2 variant continues to be seen in a larger number of patients, new questions are starting to emerge, including will we constantly fight against variants? And when will we go out of the pandemic and into another phase? The ongoing public health consensus has been that COVID-19 will eventually evolve from pandemic to endemic phase.
The general public is looking for signs that we have entered the endemic phase, and certainly with local and state restrictions lifted or made optional in various cities and states, it seems that we are slowly moving it way.
However, we also thought that things were slowing down last autumn before the advent of Omicron (BA.1), which as we now know had other plans. That variant quickly took hold and within a few weeks became the predominant tribe. Now that the Omicron variant is starting to see a drop in chance, its cousin, the BA.2 variant is starting to take hold here in the US and internationally.
While we wait to see what happens next, a clinician offers another option. Robert Gottlieb, MD, PhD, FACC, Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, predicts the possibility that it will not be endemic, but episodic. “I think it’s going to be an episodic disease with episodic variants popping up,” Gottlieb said. “I really think we have no indication that this will be a seasonal virus … many people place this in the context of seasonal viruses, such as influenza, which are more prominent in winter. [However]we have seen throughout this pandemic that this could be in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. ”
Gottlieb is a transplant cardiologist and has been involved in COVID-19 therapeutic studies. He points to the real-world data and clinical experience that have shown that countries in the southern hemisphere that come out of summer and go into fall have high prevalence. And in early June 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the public about the new Delta tribewhich grew in incidence through the summer months and became the dominant tribe.
In a statement written by Eric Topol, MD, in LA Times Today he pointed out, “The SARS-CoV-2 virus is still with us and is adept at finding new ways to infect us on a large scale.”
So does this mean that this virus will be with us constantly, just mutating enough to re-infect the population as a whole every few months?
At present, no one can really say what the future holds, because COVID-19 and its many mutations do not behave the way we expected it to, specifically become weaker or develop into a seasonal virus.
Yet medical science has done some magnificent work in creating vaccines and therapies to help curb the severity of the disease and help ward off countless hospitalizations and mortality.
Infection spoke with Gottlieb recently and offered his perspective on the virus, what roles antiviral and monoclonal antibodies will play in the clinical care strategy, and how he remains optimistic about the future of vaccines and therapies despite the latter’s supply challenges.