COVID Spilled From Animals to Humans
Now it’s spilling back
A year and a few days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, there’s a palpable sense that the pendulum is swinging back: Vaccines have been approved, countries are receiving them through their own purchases or via the international collaboration called Covax, people are making plans to take up their lives again.
Not to be a downer, but: not so fast. A small cadre of scientists is warning that we have not paid sufficient attention to the possibility that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, may be with us long-term. That is not just because it might become an endemic disease, surging up periodically when population immunity dips low enough to let it gain a foothold. It’s also because we haven’t dealt adequately with the implications of the coronavirus being a zoonotic infection, one that leapt between species to cause illness in the human world.
To the degree we’ve approached that problem, it has been by investigating—via an official WHO-sponsored mission and also via conspiracy theorizing—how the coronavirus accomplished its spillover from an asymptomatic bat pathogen to a lethal human one. We haven’t yet tackled the dimensions of a second phenomenon, what researchers are calling spillback. That is the process by which the novel coronavirus jumps from humans into additional animal species, giving it new territory in which to survive and mutate, and maybe jump again. There are already signs that may be happening—and we have not yet begun to set up the systems that will tell us what the virus is doing in its new home.
Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.