Contagiousness, mortality, resistance to vaccines: are the different variants of Covid-19 really more dangerous?


THE CHEKING PROCESS – English, South African, Brazilian, but also Californian or New Yorker: the new strains of Sars-CoV-2 are worrying. But what do we really know about these variants?

THE QUESTION. – While the curfew and social distancing measures seemed sufficient to control the epidemic, the emergence of new variants upsets forecasts. The epidemic is starting again worryingly in several departments. But what exact role do they play? What can we fear for the future with regard to their contagiousness, their lethality and their possible resistance to vaccines?

CHECKS. – Let’s start by going back to the origin of these variants. When they enter a cell, viruses use the cellular machinery to copy their genetic material and produce new viruses. This copy is never perfect and errors occur during replication. Whether it is a loss of part of the genetic code (a deletion) or the replacement of one letter by another (a mutation), most of these changes will disappear, either because the mutant virus is deficient or because it is not transmitted to another host. There is therefore a part of chance and a part of selection, which combine to make “ to evolve ” the virus.

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