A new COVID-19 variant could come soon if we let coronavirus spread freely without protection, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci spoke with Bloomberg about the risk of a new coronavirus variant showing up in our society, especially at a time when cases are dipping nationwide.

  • “There are many variants out there,” Fauci told Bloomberg. “The delta variant has a characteristic that it is so easy and efficiently transmitted from person to person, which is good for the virus, but bad for us, that it is actually crowded out all the other variants.”
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But will there be more variants to worry about in the future?

  • “As long as you have virus freely circulating in the environment in society, jumping from person to person, that virus, by the fact that it continually replicates, gives itself ample opportunity to mutate,” Fauci said. “And when you give it ample opportunity to mutate, sooner or later you will get an accumulation of mutations that will lead to another variant. So that’s the reason why we say, the best way to prevent the future emergence of variants that might be problematic. The best way to do that is the don’t give the virus the opportunity to freely spread.”

Variants may have a tough time spreading in the modern coronavirus culture. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said in a video Q&A in early September that the delta variant was “outcompeting and replacing” other variants, which has stopped ones like lambda, mu and others from spreading quickly.

In fact, the delta variant was so strong that it made earlier variants such as alpha, beta and gamma spread less often, she said.

  • “Of those four variants of concern, delta is, by far, the most transmissible,” Van Kerkhove said. “If delta is identified or starts to circulate in a country where there is beta ... (delta) has quickly replaced the variant there.”
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Dr. Anna Durbin, a professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Newsweek that the delta variant has been infecting too many people, giving them immunity so other variants don’t spread.

  • “These viruses are all competing with each other for advantage to be the one that survives,” Durbin told Newsweek. “We know that the lambda variant has some of the same mutations as the delta variant that we think (will) allow it to be more transmissible, so it would be difficult to outcompete the delta variant.”
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