The world may be looking at an unfortunate new normal for virus spread.
Doctors and medical experts are seeing a bizarre return of diseases that have been largely disrupted during COVID’s aggressive spread — and the general population, particularly children, have been vulnerable to isolation in recent years due to a lack of naturally acquired immunity, Stat News reported .
According to Hubert Niesters, a professor of clinical virology and molecular diagnostics at the University Medical Center in Groningen, the Netherlands, medical experts are investigating the possibility that babies born from a pandemic will receive fewer antibodies – especially against respiratory diseases – from their mothers.
Even those born before COVID who have endured dramatic isolation from attending in-person school or daycare are showing noticeable changes.
A search for antibodies in young children found an “infection honeymoon” in their blood tests, said another Dutch medical scientist, Marion Koopmans.
“You can really see that children in the second year of the pandemic have far fewer antibodies to a range of common respiratory viruses. They’re just less exposed,” said Koopmans, who heads the department of virology at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
Scientists are investigating a causality with children having fewer antibodies and recent hepatitis infecting children. It is possibly caused by adenovirus type 41, a disease that can cause flu-like symptoms in patients. They are weighing the possibility that this highly infectious strain could be the result of compromised immunity.
“There is some suspicion that this could be the case with the hepatitis cases,” said Kevin Messacar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“I think sometimes, to connect the dots of rare complications of common diseases, you just need enough cases out there to put the pieces together,” he added.
Public health workers are also scared of outbreaks stemming from vaccine-stopped diseases because so many children have missed their routine vaccinations during the pandemic, according to Thomas Clark, associate director of the Division of Viral Diseases at the Centers for the Control and Prevention of AIDS Diseases.
“We are very focused on under-vaccinated children with routine childhood immunizations as these are the prerequisites for measles to be introduced. But then there were also a lot of kids who didn’t catch the usual viruses that they might have been exposed to.”
Because many children don’t catch the bugs and diseases they would otherwise have been exposed to when they were young, Clark says they could get more severe cases as they get older.
“Whether we’re going to see something like this in such a short amount of time is a big question mark, I think,” Koopmans said. “But I think it’s certainly something worth watching closely.”
She has also observed that after a year or two dip in flu transmission, there could be a noticeable decrease in the number of those who have combative antibodies that would protect themselves.
She warned that we could see a “larger, more vulnerable group among adults.”
As well as reduced immunity, the easing of COVID restrictions may also have contributed to the spread of diseases such as monkeypox – a flesh-altering virus found predominantly in central and west Africa – which has been a cause for concern in Europe and the US.
“If you look at what has happened in the world in recent years and if you look at what is happening now, you might be wondering if this virus made its way into the UK two to three years ago and passed under the radar screen became. [with] slow chains of transmission,” David Heymann, chair of an advisory committee for the Health Emergencies Program at the World Health Organization, told Stat News.
“And then suddenly everything opened up and people started to travel and mingle.”
However, there are other scientists, such as Englishman Peter Brodin, Professor of Pediatric Immunology at Imperial College London, who are quick to quash dramatic fears about these biological variants.
“I think we can expect some presentations to be unusual… Not necessarily really strict. I mean it’s not a doomsday projection. But I think something out of the ordinary.
“I think once you’ve infected a number of people, herd immunity kicks in and the virus goes away,” Brodin said of viruses in general. “We haven’t fundamentally changed the rules on infectious diseases.”