According to doctors in Italy, patients are showing much smaller amounts of the viral load in their system, compared to samples taken during the peak of the crisis in March and April, saying the disease which has killed 370,000 worldwide – is much less lethal than it was and ‘no longer clinically exists’.
Italy was once the Epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in Europe, but Covid-19 deaths have been falling in Italy for weeks.
Viruses may become weaker over time in a bid to survive if they kill or cripple all their human hosts but some virologists have now come out to cast doubt on the Italian doctors’ claims, saying there is no evidence the virus is losing potency anywhere.
Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan said on Monday to the RAI TV channel.
‘In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy.’
He said that swabs taken from patients during the last 10 days have an ‘infinitesimal’ – extremely small – viral load, compared to ones carried out a month ago.”
The head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino Hospital in Genoa, Italy also told reporters that the virus has weakened.
Matteo Bassetti told the ANSA news agency: ‘The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today. ‘It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.’
In disputing the claims made by the Italian doctors, Dr Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, from the University of Wollongong in Australia, said that the idea the virus has disappeared ‘seems dubious’.
Dr Angela Rasmussen, based at Columbia University, tweeted: ‘There is no evidence that the virus is losing potency anywhere.’
She added less transmission means fewer hospitalisations and deaths – but warned: ‘That doesn’t mean less virulence.’
Dr Oscar MacLean, of the University of Glasgow, in a more detailed rebuttal of the claims made by Italian doctors said: ‘These claims are not supported by anything in the scientific literature, and also seem fairly implausible on genetic grounds.
‘The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 mutations are extremely rare, and so whilst some infections may be attenuated by certain mutations, they are highly unlikely to be common enough to alter the nature of the virus at a national or global level.
‘As testing efforts are scaled up across the globe, asymptomatic and mild infections which previously would not have been detected, are now much more likely to be identified. It’s important not to confuse this with any weakening on the virus’s part.
‘Making these claims on the basis of anecdotal observations from swab tests is dangerous. Whilst weakening of the virus through mutations is theoretically possible, it is not something we should expect, and any claims of this nature would need to be verified in a more systematic way.
‘Without significantly stronger evidence, no one should unnecessarily downplay the danger this highly virulent virus poses, and risk the ongoing society-wide response.’