Analysis: experts warn that viral evolution is not a one-way street and a continuing fall in virulence cannot be taken for granted
Omicron appears to be less severe than the Alpha or Delta variants – but both of these variants caused more severe illness than the original Wuhan strain. Importantly, viral evolution is not a one-way street: Omicron did not evolve from Delta, and Delta didn’t evolve from Alpha – it is more random and unpredictable than that.
And when we let it spread rampant, seems more likely that there will be more mutations.
When I was a kid playing SimEarth, I thought putting a bunch of radiation everywhere and causing mutations was the coolest. Real life, not so much.
There is a possibility that Omicron is so transmissible that it has hit a ceiling whereby future variants will struggle to outcompete it. But just a few months ago, people were saying the same thing about Delta. Also, Omicron is likely to keep evolving.
It also seems crazy to let it run wild and risk further evolution when we’ve hit the limit of our current vaccine capabilities, and we’ll need to develop a new booster to really protect against Omicron and likely other new strains.
“Smallpox was endemic, polio is endemic, Lassa fever is endemic, and malaria is endemic,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor of virology at the University of Leeds. “Measles and mumps are endemic, but dependent on vaccination. Endemic does not mean that something loses its teeth at all.”