Dr. Matteo Bassetti, the head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital, said the virus appears to have become less potent, possibly due to genetic mutations, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
“The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity,” Bassetti told the outlet.
“In March and early April the patterns were completely different. People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult to manage illness and they needed oxygen and ventilation, some developed pneumonia.”
But he said in the past month, “the picture has completely changed in terms of patterns.”
“It was like an aggressive tiger in March and April but now it’s like a wild cat,” Bassetti said. “Even elderly patients, aged 80 or 90, are now sitting up n bed and they are breathing without help. The same patients would have died in two or three days before.”
He said one of the reasons for the virus becoming weaker could be that it has mutated in response to social distancing measures.
“I think the virus has mutated because our immune system reacts to the virus and we have a lower viral load now due to the lockdown, mask-wearing, social distancing,” he said. “We still have to demonstrate why it’s different now.”
It’s possible that the virus will be eradicated before researchers find a vaccine, he said.
“We have fewer and fewer people infected and it could end up with the virus dying out,” Bassetti said.
But another expert was less optimistic about the prospect of the virus disappearing soon, saying it could take years, the outlet reported.
“I don’t expect it to die out that quickly,” said Dr. Bharat Pankhania, a professor at the UK’s University of Exeter Medical School, according to the report.
“It will if it has no one to infect. If we have a successful vaccine then we’ll be able to do what we did with smallpox. But because it’s so infectious and widespread, it won’t go away for a very long time.”