Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world in unexpected and unprecedented ways, going far beyond the recapture of urban spaces by wild animals and amateur music shows on Instagram.

At the time of writing, nearly two million people worldwide have tested positive for the virus and more than 125,000 have died,[1], and the projections far exceed what we call “manageable”. The human cost also includes the millions of people around the world who will suffer from the next financial recession, which experts say could be the worst since the Great Depression.[2]

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The virus is also special in that we simply do not know how it works. This is one of those cases where real and responsible experts tell you that they are not sure because there are still huge gaps between the behavior we expect from the virus and what we see in patients in the field.

10 Why Are Young, Fit People Dying, Too?

One of the most worrying aspects of the pandemic is the disproportionate rate of death among older adults. This allows the virus to spread virtually undetected among younger and less vulnerable population groups. You may think that is a good thing, but it is not.

SARS Cov-2 can go unnoticed and spread widely until it reaches older hosts and wreaks havoc. If the symptoms were a little more severe and detectable at an early stage, the virus would have had much more difficulty reaching its older targets.

This does not mean that the youngest are immune, as many of them have also died from the virus. This is something we do not yet fully understand, because from our current understanding of the pandemic, relatively fit and younger people should not develop the most severe symptoms. This is much of the broader question of how the virus affects different people in so many different ways, and it is crucial to address them to prevent future potentially deadly epidemics.[3]

9 Can We Infect Animals?

Despite the long list of things we still don’t know about the COVID-19 pandemic, we know it came from the animals. There is still fierce debate about the identity of the animal, with pangolins, bats and even poultry as potential suspects, although we think researchers will be interested in animals once they are done with humans.

What baffles scientists, however, is how the mutated human form of the virus is now transmitted to animals, which no one predicted. Among wild animals, a Bronx Zoo tiger has recently been diagnosed with the COVID-19 strain, and several others are beginning to show similar symptoms. Although this is not the only case of this kind, all other cases of human-to-animal transmission involve domestic animals.

This is the first case of the Cov-2 strain of SARS infecting wild animals, and no one knows how. Our best hypothesis is that it comes from one of the zoo employees infected, without any symptoms. If this is the case, it should have been passed on to other animals as well. No other animals, not even other big cats, have yet developed symptoms, so it is possible that the tiger will only be affected for any reason.[4]

8 We Still Don’t Understand Its Biology

It is true that the COVID-19 epidemic has disproportionately affected the first world, which means that some of the best health care experts in the world are currently working hard to try to understand how it works. It is worrying, however, that this does not mean much, as the Cov-2 strain of SARS has proven to be much more difficult to understand than we had imagined.

At the heart of the problem is the big question about the fundamental biological structure of the virus. If we know that it has the shape of a spiked ball – the spikes are intended to enter living tissues – the exact way in which this translates into an unrealistic rate of spread remains a mystery, as many other relatively harmless viruses – including other coronavirus strains – also have the capacity.

We simply do not know what makes them so deadly to humans in the SARS coronavirus family, or even – as we will see later – how they have learned to affect humans.[5]

7 Its Evolution In Humans Is Still Poorly Understood

The biology of the virus may help us better understand its effects, but it remains to be seen how exactly the Cov-2 strain of SARS has learned to infect humans. Although we are no strangers to the coronaviruses that infect people, they have always needed some time to mutate and learn how to infect new hosts.

The last strain of SARS – also called conventional SARS – took some time to mutate into the human body before causing real damage. The current virus, however, appears to have been able to infect and kill from the outset, as it has not evolved much since the beginning of the pandemic.

This is not to say that it does not mutate, although none of the mutations could have taken over the first one. In other words, the current Cov-2 strain of SARS does not need to change to infect other hosts (for now), as it is already able to do so without much effort.[6]

6 People Are Testing Negative, And Then Positive

As we face tens of thousands of cases around the world every day, doctors are facing a new unexplained problem. Many patients who were previously negative are now tested positive, which calls into question the very methods and tools we use to detect it.

While it is true that the virus may remain dormant for some time before showing symptoms, almost all countries already take this into account before returning suspect patients.

The WHO guidelines, now disinherited and deficient, require that all cured patients be tested twice negative for the virus, with a minimum 24-hour interval between tests. It is worrying that some of these recovered patients are now tested positive for the virus, and we do not know why.[7]

According to some experts, the virus may have the ability to disable and reactivate within a human host, but it could also be patients reinfected by other sources after they are discharged from hospital, or something entirely different.

We don’t know that. All of these possibilities, however, run counter to the widespread idea that cured patients would develop some kind of immunity against the virus – as is the case with most of the other diseases we know – which in turn would strengthen the collective immunity of the entire population. Moreover, if the virus can reactivate on a whim, what does the term “cured” mean?[8]

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5 The Carriers With No Symptoms At All

If you study the different pandemics in history, you will realize that the secret to the success of the Chinese virus is not its high rate of spread or even mortality. We have dealt with diseases far more deadly than this one in the past; it is not at all close to the Black Death or the Spanish flu in terms of the number of deaths or infection rates.

However, it is different at some point: infected people can live with mild or no symptoms, which allows it to reach even more people than any of these diseases. It creates, in fact, a society full of “Typhoid Marys”, or perhaps more adequately for our time: “Coronavirus Karens”.

What scientists do not know, however, is how many of these cases exist. At this point, it is clear that known infections or popular hot spots may not be the only ones responsible for the deluge of cases that are pouring in at the minute.

Although there have been many cases where patients with mild or non-existent symptoms have tested positive for the virus, these are the only ones we have been able to test. People with runny nose or cough tend not to see it as a problem and, according to many doctors and scientists, maybe the main reason for the incredibly rapid spread of the virus.[9]

4 Why Are Children So Good At Fighting It?

It is not surprising that the new strain of coronavirus affects everyone differently. The number of deaths is much higher among relatively elderly people, which is usually due to their weakened immunity. This seems to be an intuitive explanation, but not considering that the virus is virtually ineffective on children. Compared to adult deaths, the number of deaths among children was – fortunately – almost negligible.[10]

This is great news, but it is also inexplicable because today’s children are hardly known for their high immunity to viruses or their good physical fitness. In fact, children are generally at a disproportionate risk of developing respiratory viral infections, such as regular influenza. And yet, many more people who are supposed to have better mechanisms to fight the virus have died from it than children, and we really don’t know why.[11]

3 How Do Patients Recover?

At this point, we have a pretty good idea of how the new coronavirus kills its victims, although many of the conditions that led to this stage are still shrouded in mystery. What we don’t fully understand yet, however, is how does someone get over it?

Usually, for other diseases, patients recover by developing antibodies, which help them not only fight the current disease, but also protect their bodies from future attacks of the same strain. This immunity may not be permanent, as in the case of the influenza virus, although the body retains some signs of disease control.

This is not the case for a surprisingly high number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19, and researchers are trying to figure out why. In a study in China, most of the patients recovered had developed antibodies specifically for the Cov-2 strain of SARS, and this is how it is expected to work. However, 30% of patients showed no signs of these antibodies or other related antibodies, and it is not known at all how their bodies recovered.[12]

2 The Invisible Line Of Transmission

Even though the number of cases worldwide is increasing at an alarming rate, we can at least trace back to the potential source of the virus for most of them. Knowing that a hospital is a hot spot can help us quarantine and isolate the area, contact anyone who may have been nearby during the pandemic, and ensure that it does not contribute to other infections.

However, it is worrying that we are also seeing a number of confusing cases around the world, with no pathways of infection detectable. For example, a young child from Gujarat, India,[13]was infected and died, although no cases were known in the entire district. And a man in California[14]became the first American to contract the virus without coming into contact with a potential host.

1 How Does It Spread?

Most countries in the world are doing their best to curb the rate of infection, including through strict measures such as legal lockdown and rules of social distancing. All this, however, is based on the assumption that everything we know about the virus is correct. As more and more research shows us, we know very little, and our prevention techniques will have to constantly evolve if we have a chance to combat this phenomenon.

The greatest mystery of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we simply have no idea how it spreads, and anyone who says that knows is just speculating. While it was previously thought that it could only spread through touch, new research suggests that the virus could remain suspended in the air much longer than we thought and that it does not need carriers like cough droplets to spread.

In one possibly related case, an entire choir was infected with the virus although it kept its distance from the others at all times. Again, we think they caught it by air because we do not yet know all possible modes of spread.[15]

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