According to Martin Schalling, Professor of Medical Genetics, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, COVID-19 is not the last pandemic that the world has seen, and India has the capability and mechanism to fight in the event of a new pandemic.
Schalling told IANS that COVID-19 is the first major pandemic in 100 years, but that it will not be the last.
Schalling stated, “We’re going to have more pandemics, and the key is preparing ourselves to not be as confused and impotent as we were in the early stages of COVID-19.”
“And there, I believe India can contribute significantly, both in the realm of information technology and digital health, to mitigate the effects of a new pandemic,” he said.
Schalling, who was in India on World Health Day to attend a conference hosted by Religare Enterprises, described the mechanisms of post-COVID syndromes, also known as long-term COVID. In addition, he provided his perspective on the much-debated origins of COVID-19.
Can you describe what COVID means? Is it simply “brain fatigue,” as the WHO vaguely describes it?
There are currently many unknowns about post-COVID. In addition to the brain, it affects the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and other organs. This virus can infect virtually all human organs. And as a result, you may experience persistent symptoms in numerous organs.
Recent research has revealed that when the virus infects brain cells, it activates a type of cleansing cell in the brain known as microglia. As a consequence, it initiates a process known as pruning, which reduces the number of synapses, or connections between nerve cells.
We believe that the cognitive decline and brain haze associated with post-COVID are likely related to this process in which you lose connectivity.
Exist any medical exams for assessing chronic COVID?
Similar to how medications help regulate the activity of the immune system to reduce the negative effects of Covid, you can assume that decreasing the pruning activity of these microglia could be a way to reduce the effect of brain dysfunction.
In spite of this, I do not believe that we currently have an arsenal of medicines that are truly efficacious for post-COVID problems.
At this juncture, it is more about mapping the individual’s problems and then attempting to support them as much as possible with rehabilitation and recovery, so much more research is required.
Do you believe the next pandemic will be caused by zoonotic transmission, or will it be something else?
We have no knowledge whatsoever. As you are aware, there were a few epidemics of viruses similar to the SARS Covid virus roughly a decade before COVID-19.
The next pandemic does not have to be a relative of these viruses; there are numerous zoonotic risk factors as humans interact more and move deeper into previously isolated habitats.
There is always the possibility of a spillover. However, the virus or other infections can also arise from spontaneous genetic mutations.
While a viral origin is plausible, it is not the only possible cause of a new pandemic.
How do we approach a new pandemic? What role does India have?
We must amass as much information as possible about what to do, sort of in a medical context, regarding how we manage pandemics or calamitous events in general, so that we are prepared to act.
Moreover, I believe that digital medical solutions, such as telemedicine and digital monitoring instruments, will become increasingly significant in the future.
India can be a significant contributor to the development of digital instruments of the future. I am persuaded that this will be the largest medical market of the future.
I believe that India’s strength lies, among other things, in information technology, and there is a strong global trend toward constructing what could be termed a “digital hospital.”
What are your thoughts on the genesis of COVID?
I believe it is abundantly evident that COVID originated specifically in China. I honestly do not know whether the organism was released from a laboratory or was the result of a naturally occurring recombination or something similar.
It appears to me, based on what we can say, that this is not an intentional dissemination. Therefore, I believe that conspiracy theories and the notion that someone was out to harm the human population are unfounded.
This event may have been the result of an accident, but it was most likely a natural occurrence that occurred in 2019 in the vicinity of Wuhan.