Alexander Gintsburg, the director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute – which developed the pioneering formula – claimed in an interview with Moscow outlet Izvestiya, published on Monday, that the virus could become more infectious and spread to a whole new group of potential hosts.
“The coronavirus has not yet realized its pathogenic potential,” Gintsburg said, arguing that the pandemic is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
“The next stage is the infection of farm and domestic animals. And when we protect humanity with the help of good vaccines within a year, pets will be infected by that time, and no one is going to get rid of their beloved pets.”
“Therefore,” he argued, “the focus of this pathogen will constantly be around us, and it will keep evolving. That is to say, we must be prepared for a long existence with this pathogen.”
“The beauty of how evolution creates something perfect, even something negative, surprises and delights me,” Gintsburg said.
“If you try to draw the most unpleasant infectious threat for humanity, then [COVID-19] would be what you’d come up with… And nature not only invented it, but also created it.”
Albert Rizvanov, the director of the Center for Precision and Regenerative Medicine at Kazan Federal University, told TASS on Wednesday that, while the end of widespread infection might be in sight, society would have to learn to live with an evolving virus for years to come.
In January, Rizvanov claimed that, while the pandemic was on the wane in Russia, the virus would likely live on with an annual wave of infection.
“There are seasonal diseases that usually die out in late spring and early summer,” he said.
Like them, Rizvanov said, this virus may “stop spreading in Russia this summer. It seems that COVID-19 will become another one of the seasonal pathogens that cause respiratory illnesses.”
New mutations in the pathogen’s genetic code, such as those found in the UK, Brazil, South Africa, and Russia, have sparked concerns that the existing vaccines being rolled out might end up offering less protection against new variants.
The creators of Sputnik V, however, say their formula is effective against these recently evolved strains, although a further mutation that circumvents the immunity the vaccines provide is still possible.