While COVID-19 pandemic seems to be leashed grossly, scientists are worried about the number of persistent cases and its repercussion on the potential emergence of newer fatal variants. It is proven that the months-long infections with SARS-CoV-2 led to the origins of Omicron and other variants that have driven COVID-19 surges. Scientists are studying this phenomenon judiciously in hopes to utilize the knowledge going forward.
In majority of the acute, short-lived infection, versions of the virus with advantageous mutations have little time to outcompete those without the mutations, making it unlikely to be transmitted to another person. In contrary, in persistent cases where the virus hangs around for long time, the virus gets opportunity to evolve into dangerous new variants. Thus, higher the number of chronic infections, the more opportunities for virus to evolve into the deadly variant.
Unfortunately, some reports show that the current surveillance is unlikely to detect a variant at its point of emergence.
This urgently necessitates further research to understand the viral factors that contribute to chronic infections and to identify effective treatments for chronic infections, particularly in people with immune-system impairments, who don’t always mount a strong response to vaccines.