The leading scientists and researchers discussed whether there are any infectious disease threats that could potentially strike in the future and the things we have learnt from Covid, after some, criticised parts of the world for not reacting quickly enough to the pandemic. The discussion with Professor Denning and Allmond comes just days after it was announced that there are a total of 183 cases of Monkeypox in England. Although research from Novacyt found that a whopping 94 percent of surveyed Brits agreed it was important to test for Covid before seeing vulnerable people and 90 percent think it is important before going to the hospital, how have these attitudes changed in more recent times and how likely is it that Covid will strike again?
When asked what the current situation of Covid is in the UK, Professor Denning gave an insightful and honest answer: “Obviously the numbers have come way down and the Omicron variant has replaced the Delta variant so it is less severe. It is still significant, but it is less severe.
“We still have patients going to the hospital, we still have patients in the ICU, we still have people dying from the virus and that is globally. So it is not gone and it almost never will go completely.
“I think this is a virus that is here to stay. What I am hopeful about is that with forced immunisation, which produces antibody responses it will become less severe and as a result of that Covid will be more like a bad cold.
“But there is quite a big group of people who get long Covid and are affected for weeks or months after the virus, which is not standard for a common cold.
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“So I think the toll from this virus will continue in various different dimensions over the coming years. I just hope it isn’t hounded by another very significant infection on top which I think is a definite risk in the future.”
With the statement that other infectious diseases could pose a “definite risk” in the future, Professor Denning and Allmond are asked about Monkeypox and hepatitis, both of which we have recently seen outbreaks of in the UK.
In response Allmond responded: “As a company we continue to want to be fast and the first in global response to outbreaks. If we see newsflow or information from an institution that is picking up something like human adenovirus F41 which is potentially related to the hepatitis outbreak in children or Monkeypox.
“In both cases as recent examples we have embarked on developments and we will have tests available for research used for both of those infections in the coming weeks.
“If any of these get bigger and we as a company are told they need a clinical test, that does take more time. But we are happy to do that. And that is what we have done through Covid.”
With companies such as Novacyt, who have a history of responding rapidly to emerging threats and providing tests always on alert for potential threats, do Professor Denning and Allmond truly believe that the 58 percent of those surveyed who said they are happy to test to prevent the need for additional restrictions would keep to their word?
Allmond responded saying: “Research showed that three quarters of people are still worried about another pandemic and there are still some who will do a test or take a mask if they are going to see a vulnerable person. But overall you are seeing a waning in that willingness and that action.
“Especially since free testing has gone away. People have short memories so I do think it depends on when you run those surveys as to how people will really react. I suspect that people will revert to wild times over time and relax. We are in a country where we don’t probably appreciate that the exposure and the vaccination has allowed us to get moving again.”
Due to the unprecedented nature of Covid and the toll it took on the world, Allmond provides insight into new tests that can be used to detect not only Covid, but other respiratory infections that may increase during the winter months. This includes influenza A and B and RSV A and B.
“Because of the resurgence risk of other respiratory viruses, that will keep some of the testing going,” Allmond added.
When examining the increase of respiratory infections such as influenza in Australia, as they enter into their winter months, could this be an indication as to what is to come for Britain and will individuals be more at risk of contracting illnesses this year in comparison to last?
When put to Professor Denning he replied: “Having had two years of social distancing and wearing masks, the amount of exposure with young children and in schools which would normally have given some degree of immunity has dipped a lot.
“We are seeing a lot of adults with quite significant illnesses. This could be a number of illnesses such as influenza, para-influenza or rhinoviruses. It could be all of those things. And then some individuals will get bacterial infections on top of those as well, just to add to the misery.
“So I think the answer is yes. It is very likely.”
With the threat of infectious diseases never zero, moving forward both Professor Denning and Allmond agree that a number of things can be learnt from the Covid pandemic.
Professor Denning added: “Awareness is important. It is important not to transmit infections to other people. If you are ill, you do not go to work. In the old days if you didn’t show up to work because of a cold you were considered to be a bit of a wimp. But now it is important not to go into work with your cold.”
Novacyt develop rapid tests that can be used when outbreaks emerge. They are an innovator in research and precision diagnostics, taking testing closer to patients where it is needed most. They were the first organisation to bring an approved COVID-19 PCR test to Europe. www.novacyt.com