3. ¿DIFFERENTS SARS-CoV-2?: The new Barça

Some say that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Spain was not the same as the one in Wuhan (China). That’s not true. The virus is the same. What happens is that, when making copies of its genetic material, it makes mistakes, changing one nucleotide (A, U, C, or G) for another. Its genetic material is RNA, unlike ours which is DNA, and uses nucleotides or letters (A, T, C, or G).

Changes from one letter to another in the virus’s RNA, or in our DNA, are called mutations. Some mutations may be advantageous for the virus, and others may not. Advantageous or neutral mutations for the virus will remain. The negatives will tend to disappear. This selection of mutations is supported by Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution. A theory that also applies to football. If a team changes three players from one season to another, new players will survive if they improve the squad. If they don’t work, they will disappear from the team.

Barcelona today has Griezmann in place of Neymar. Is it another Barça, or is it the same? More years would have to pass before Barça was not recognizable and was considered something else. In biology something similar happens, with the particularity that bacteria and viruses, because they reproduce very quickly, need to copy their genetic material frequently. Such rapid replication provokes an accumulation of errors in the copies —mutations—, and consequently they were constantly recruiting new nucleotides. In this way, scientists become fixated on determining when viruses and bacteria accumulate enough nucleotide changes to stop being the same species and to be considered a different one. The day Messi, Busquets and Piqué retire, then the change will be so important as to say that Barça is another Barça, different from the one that won the Champions League in London and Rome. For now, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not changed so much to say that it is different from the Chinese one. And although it has a few different nucleotides, as a whole it is still a virus with a lot of capacity to score goals —read as the ability to spread and infect— approximately three times more than the flu virus.

One of the reasons that make SARS-CoV-2 a great goalscorer is that, from the moment it scores a goal (the day it infects) until the VAR verifies it (the day symptoms appear), it can take several days —normally four or five—3. During this time, it is being spread without people suspecting they have it, and it can be unwittingly passed to others. To make matters, some times the virus scores but it does not show on the scoreboard (there are people who contract the virus but remain asymptomatic). Many of the COVID-19 contagions happen like this, without the players being aware they’re scoring. As happened to James Rodríguez when he was on loan at Bayern Munich. He was hit in the head in a match against Borussia Mönchengladbach and, in his disorientation, did not know that his team was losing 2-0. They had to replace him.

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