Assoc. Prof. Atanas Mangarov: The coronavirus mutates, so it hits more than once
Medical masks create a false sense of securitySilvia Nikolova
Coronavirus seems to be very adaptive. It can easily produce new strains for which the human body has not developed immunity. To avoid getting sick from any type of virus infection, the human body needs to develop antibodies. The flu viruses are capable of attacking even the strongest immune systems. The Covid-19 pandemic will finally go down but no one knows when.
Assoc. Prof. Mangarov, the coronavirus has already taken many casualties in Italy, while hundreds of others have been infected and the number is growing. Are infectious disease specialists ready to cope with the outbreak?
In theory, yes, but look at what is happening in Italy. The same will happen in any other European country that the virus hits. We are very similar to the Italians in terms of mentality. Whatever you observe there, would be the case here.
Chinese health authorities have reported of nearly 100 people who were successfully treated and discharged from hospital but later contracted the virus again. What does that mean?
The fact that people who have been successfully treated come down with the virus again suggests that it is highly adaptive. This means that it can easily produce new strains for which the human body has not developed immunity. To avoid getting sick from any type of virus infection, the human body needs to develop antibodies. In turn, these antibodies would protect it from getting the same disease twice. If what the Chinese authorities are saying is true, Covid-19 is highly adaptive. Most likely we will find out that there are various strains, which, similar to the flu strains, are going to affect people who have not had that particular mutation of the virus. Covid-19 is a new coronavirus and we have very little data on it.
Ebola also took a lot of casualties but the epidemic blew over within months, whereas in the case of the Chinese coronavirus there has been no appreciative decrease in the number of cases. How do you explain that development?
The Ebola virus was in a completely different area. The new coronavirus has the capacity to spread in a pattern similar to the flu. It has the same genealogy. We saw something similar in 2002-2003 with the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Tens of thousands of people caught the virus and thousands died. The same applies to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. But we have never seen anything on the scale we have now.
How do you explain the fact that SARS and Ebola went away as if on their own within months?
This coronavirus will probably also go away naturally. Health organisations around the world are really hopeful that it does because in its composition Covid-19 closely resembles SARS, which was first detected in 2002 and vanished in June-July 2003. But no one knows for sure because this is something new and we are still studying the biology of these viruses.
Can face masks, which are now in deficit, help prevent the infection?
Face masks are in short supply not only in Bulgaria but also across Europe. Covid-19 has scared people and they buy masks to protect themselves. However, wearing a respiratory mask can protect you against larger air particles but not against the smaller virus particles. The bad news is that they create a false sense of security. The material of the masks is not fine enough to protect you against virus particles, no matter how diligently we are using them.
Are there any available means of prevention that would protect us against flu viruses, for instance, those boosting our immune system?
The flu viruses are capable of attacking even the strongest immune systems. People do not get infected because their immune resistance is failing but because they do not have virus-antibodies. When a virus attacks us, it gets the upper hand over our body-defences and we get ill. It is nothing but a myth that eating the right foods, rich in vitamins, minerals, etc., can prevent us from getting infected.