Virus que saltan

Los científicos anunciaron hace mucho que un virus de la gripe se propagaría -como parece estar ocurriendo ahora en Asia- de aves salvajes a seres humanos y causaría una pandemia, pero pocos predijeron la epidemia provocada el año pasado por el síndrome respiratorio agudo y grave (SARS), neumonía causada por un coronavirus . Antes de 2003, los coronavirus ocupaban un lugar muy bajo en la escala de enfermedades humanas importantes, pues la mayoría tenían relación con el constipado común. Pero hace mucho que sabemos que los coronavirus pueden causar enfermedades espantosas en los animales domésticos. Simplemente, no hemos aprendido las enseñanzas que se desprendían de ellas.

De hecho, los acontecimientos de los dos últimos decenios -un simple ejemplo de los cuales es la propagación de los virus del SIDA del mono al hombre, seguida de su propagación mundial- deberían habernos convencido de que, por lo que se refiere a las enfermedades, lo inesperado sucederá. Al fin y al cabo, el "salto" de virus de animales salvajes a seres humanos es más común de lo que preferimos pensar.

Existen toda clase de cepas o variedades de virus, del mismo modo que existen perros de diferentes razas. Hace mucho que los veterinarios y los agricultores conocen un coronavirus que puede matar el 90 por ciento o más de las crías de cerdo de una granja. Menos sabido es que los gatos y los perros resultan infectados por un coronavirus que también puede causar enfermedades a los cerdos.

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