This time the fault is not a contaminated bat or the controversial menu of exotic foods served in an unhealthy market on the other side of the world. The Brazilian variant of covid-19, which today revives the fear of the first months of the pandemic, emerged in a metropolis less than a thousand kilometers from Venezuela and is the product of a country that has collapsed due to a management that has been questioned a thousand times: that of Jair Bolsonaro. Today, this recharged lineage of Sars-Cov-2 plunges the neighboring country into an unprecedented crisis and invades others, including ours.
The P.1 mutation of covid-19 is originally from Manaus, in the north of Brazil, and its appearance is estimated to have occurred in November 2020. It is blamed for being exponentially more contagious than the original virus, as well as having a load viral up to ten times higher, which makes it much more resistant to antibodies, both natural human beings and those developed after a previous infection or even those awakened thanks to the vaccine. Let's review the brief history of this new actor in the pandemic movie.
As the end of 2020 approached, Manaus' tragic story related to the coronavirus seemed to subside. The city, in which by then at least three-quarters of its population had been infected, had reached such a level of contagion that professionals and analysts envisioned as the only possible destination the now much-talked about "herd immunity"; In other words, after getting so sick, the circle of collective immunity for its inhabitants would close and the pandemic would give a truce. But it did not happen that way.
The excessive spread of Sars-Cov-2 in this city was the perfect breeding ground for the virus to respond in a way that is also natural: developing a more aggressive mutation. As a living organism, the covid sought to continue infecting beyond what its own power allowed it until then, and then it recharged itself with a new lineage thanks to which it could guarantee its survival within an environment in which its fertile bodies were running out to continue circulating.
At this point, the population of Manaus started the vicious cycle of infections from scratch, and those who had already overcome covid-19 fell ill again with frantic speed, this time with more acute symptoms and worse consequences. In January, the city began to be news worldwide not only because of its reinfections but also because of the collapse of its health system and especially because of the shortage of oxygen, before which Venezuela sent solidarity aid. Nobody knew it yet, but it was the new strain making itself seen and heard.
Stronger and more infectious
Since the beginning of its spread in late 2019, the coronavirus, like all viruses, has mutated many times. Hundreds of variants of covid-19 have been discovered, almost all without substantial changes and without significant consequences for the development of the pandemic, except for three: the South African variant B.1.351, the Kent variant (British) B.1.1.7 .1 and the Manaus (Brazil) variant P.XNUMX.
The first preliminary study on the Brazilian mutation carried out jointly by research teams from the University of Sao Paulo, the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, indicates that the strain could be up to two times more transmissible than the previous virus and that the probability of reinfection is between 25% and 60%, not only in people who have already passed through the disease and achieved natural immunity, but also among those vaccinated, who may need a third dose of the drug to protect themselves against this new threat.
In general, the Brazilian strain is "more transmissible, more invades the immune system and probably must be more pathogenic," explained Ester Sabino, professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and coordinator of the Brazilian group that participated in the research carried out by the Brazil-United Kingdom Center for the Discovery and Diagnosis of Abrovirus (CADDE).
Returning to its ability to skip the antibodies inoculated by the vaccine, the P.1 variant appears to be immune to the Chinese Sinovac vaccine (which is the one currently applied in Brazil on a massive scale), and to that of Astra-Zeneca . Pfizer is still effective so far, and there is no data to contrast about the others. In any case, to guarantee its effect, it is likely that all the vaccines approved to date will have to be updated so that they have a proven ability to block this new version of Sars-Cov-2, as well as for the other two variants of care. All this information is collected in the study mentioned above.
As for the death rate, there is also no last word, and the reason remains the internal crisis in Brazil. The first study places mortality at an increase of between 1,1 and 1,8 times compared to the original strain of covid-19, but the methodological problems associated with the health crisis in Manaus make those results suspicious because the research team cannot determine if the number of deaths is effectively due to the consequences of the virus or poor medical care.
So far from God and so close to Brazil
A study carried out by the Lowy Institute, a research organization in Australia, placed Brazil as the country that has worst handled the pandemic, in a ranking of 98 countries. The news does not come as a surprise when situations such as the emergence of the P.1 variant appear.
Brazil today boasts the unfortunate statistics of 10,8 million cases and more than 260 thousand deaths, and its numbers of infections and deaths are only increasing. In fact, it is the second country in the world with the most deaths, only preceded by the United States.
Even so, the government of Jair Bolsonaro continues to be skeptical of the disease, reluctantly activating a vaccination program that, according to complaints from its inhabitants and local governments, has progressed slowly and without the political will to encourage it to really make a difference. in the numbers of infections and deaths.
A report published by The New York Times longs for the achievements made by Brazil thanks to its advanced vaccination programs in the past. It says: “The distribution of vaccines in Brazil has been painfully slow and fickle and affected by shortages. The nationwide program began on January 18, later than in more than 250.000 other countries, and at its current rate it will take more than four years to complete. Some of the largest cities - such as Rio de Janeiro and Salvador - have already had to suspend their campaigns due to supply problems. Failure equates to disaster in a country where the pandemic has caused terrible damage - cities along the Amazon River, such as Manaus, have been left to fend for themselves - and XNUMX people have died, the second highest number in the world. world after the United States ”.
The P.1 strain is already found in at least 20 countries, including Venezuela, and the cases detected so far are being isolated to prevent the spread that could make this strain the new dominant variant.
The Manaus lineage is a regrettable precedent that accounts for the tragedies that could be avoided with governments and health efforts that put the human being at the center in their conjuncture. The only good news is that the preventive measures to avoid the contagion of the P.1 variant are the same that have been with us for a year: use of a mask, social distancing and good hygiene, especially frequent hand washing. Let's not open the door for it.