Why the US coronavirus strain won’t catch up with the dominant Delta

US coronavirus

The Iota coronavirus strain, the high lethality of which was previously reported by the media, can indeed spread faster and potentially be more dangerous. As Izvestia was informed at the Vector Center of Rospotrebnadzor, the risk of death from it is increased by 1.8 times for a certain age category. 

Moreover, this conclusion was made by scientists from the United States using modeling and may differ from the real values. In the very preprint of the resonant scientific article, an overview of previously published publications on the Iota option is given, which does not mention an increase in the risk of hospitalization and death, Rospotrebnadzor stressed. Experts are confident that Iota will not become a particularly dangerous option and will not catch up with the Delta strain in terms of distribution.

Confusing indicators

A variant of coronavirus B.1.526, known as Iota, is described in an article by a group of scientists from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Experts studied statistics collected in New York from November 2020 to April 2021. After evaluating them, they found that the B.1.526 variant of the virus is transmitted 15-25% faster than other known mutations.

“New variants such as B.1.526 are likely to spread in the population several weeks before discovery, and partial immune escape (eg, resistance to therapeutic antibodies) could negate previous medical advances,” the preprint reads. The article says that “Iota” in comparison with other strains increases the mortality rate by 42% in people 45-64 years old, by 82% in the group from 64 to 75 years old and by 62% in the elderly over 75.

However, this does not mean at all that out of a hundred people over 64 infected with this variant of the coronavirus, 82 people will die. Experts from the Vector Center told Izvestia that the preprint published on August 7 reports that the Iota variant is more lethal than the estimated indicator for the previous variants . In particular, for the 65-74 age group, an increase of 82% is said. 1.8 times, and not up to 82% , as was mistakenly presented by some sources, explained in the center.

– Emphasis should be placed on the fact that the conclusion of the 82% increase was made using simulations and may differ from the actual values . The preprint itself provides an overview of previously published publications on the Iota option, which do not talk about an increase in the risk of hospitalization and death, – emphasized in the Vector.

Moreover, two concepts are confused in the article by American scientists, the infectious disease specialist Yevgeny Timakov explained to Izvestia.

– There are two factors, abbreviated as IFR. The first is the infection fatality ratio, which is the proportion of deaths to the total number of infected people. The other is infection fatality risk. The risk is indeed higher in the elderly, but it does not at all mean that they will die. The article deals specifically with the risk of death, – the expert explained.

Absolute champion

The Iota variant is found primarily in the United States . According to the GISAID database, the United States accounts for 27.2 thousand genome sequences of this strain out of 28.2 thousand registered in the database, but even there now the share of the Iota variant in circulation is less than 1%.

“The collected scientific data on the Iota option are limited,” Vektor noted. – Like other “variants of interest”, “Iota” is characterized by the presence of mutations that affect some characteristics of the virus and therefore require monitoring. Among other things, the variant “Iota” showed a partially reduced susceptibility to sera from those who had been ill and vaccinated, to some monoclonal antibodies . The available data are insufficient to conclude that this option is more risky than others.

As Pavel Volchkov, head of the MIPT genomic engineering laboratory, explained to Izvestia, there are no prerequisites for the Iota to become a particularly dangerous strain. According to him, this option loses a lot to Delta, which has practically supplanted other options in Russia, and is now actively capturing Europe and the United States.

“Iota” is a very common strain. Yes, it spreads more efficiently than Wuhan. However, it loses significantly to Delta in its contagiousness (how effectively the virus spreads in the human population. – Izvestia). This can be seen from open sequencing data in other countries that are regularly uploaded to monitoring sites. As for the lethality, it is slightly higher than that of the Wuhan strain. However, Delta is even higher and is much more contagious, which makes it more dangerous. “Delta” is the champion on all fronts, and other strains cannot keep up with it yet, – emphasized Pavel Volchkov.

The Iota variant has not spread much since its discovery last year, so it can hardly be considered particularly dangerous , added Albert Rizvanov, director of the Scientific and Clinical Center for Precision and Regenerative Medicine at the Institute of Fundamental Medicine and Biology at Kazan Federal University.

– The final measure of the danger of a particular strain should be considered the spread of the virus in the population. “Iota” was discovered back in 2020, and it is still found from time to time, but it is not too widespread, which means it is not too infectious, ”the expert told Izvestia.

The Iota variant has been monitored since November 2020. It has been identified in 43 countries but has not shown a significant increase in prevalence to date.

Sophia is a professional blogger. A passionate manga reader and film buff, she swears she'll love any story if its title makes her laugh.

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