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Here, the huge rainbow within the COVID-19 storm

February 11, 2021

Last November the medical journal The Lancet published Ilaria Capua and Mario Rasetti’s contribution “Here, the huge rainbow within the Covid-19 storm”.

The real-life experience of the 2020 pandemic has shown us how totally unprepared we were to face such an event, albeit an event with several unique features. The inter-species jump by an animal virus to humans is, perhaps, one of its least unique characteristics as this has occurred several times in the past. The total absence of pre-existing immunity in the human host was the worst possible scenario in the face of rapid worldwide virus dissemination through international travel making COVID-19 effectively unstoppable. Further, this pandemic overlies other epidemics of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, obesity and chronic respiratory diseases, supporting a novel proposal for the term “syndemic”. But there is more: this virus is also spilling into animal populations such as mustelids which could become reservoirs of infection, thus potentially allowing the evolution of many host-adapted lineages. This observation leads us to consider another term which unveils another unique feature: its panzootic nature  Panzootic refers to “all animals” and should taxonomically include Homo sapiens. This concept, of a virus capable of infecting multiple animal species, provides a further perspective to this epochal event.

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