Omicron: The Evolving Story of New SARS-CoV-2 Variant

By IndraStra Global News Team

By IndraStra Global News Team

Omicron: The Evolving Story of New SARS-CoV-2 Variant

On November 26, 2021, World Health Organisation (WHO) categorized the Omicron strain (B.1.1.529) of COVID-19 as a 'variant of concern (VOC); first detected in South Africa. With this new categorization, all major countries have tightened air travel regulations for international fliers as a precautionary measure. 

According to WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.   Now, there is uncertainty around the new variant which has riled up health authorities, impacted stock markets, and triggered panic among people across the world.

The variant is characterized by 30 amino acid changes, three small deletions, and one small insertion in the spike protein compared with the original virus, of which 15 are located in the receptor-binding domain (residues 319-541). It also carries several changes and deletions in other genomic regions. Additionally, the variant has three mutations at the furin cleavage site.

WHO is concerned about this large number of mutations which, may reduce immunity in people who were previously infected and in vaccinated people. Then again, the Omicron variant might be more ineffective in this regard than prior variants. The effects of the mutations, if any, are unknown as of late November 2021. WHO also warns that health services could be overwhelmed especially in nations with low vaccination rates where mortality and morbidity rates are likely to be much higher, and urges all nations to increase COVID vaccinations.

Professor Paul Morgan, an immunologist at Cardiff University also recommends vaccination. Morgan said, “I think a blunting rather than a complete loss [of immunity] is the most likely outcome. The virus can’t possibly lose every single epitope on its surface, because if it did that spike protein couldn’t work anymore. So, while some of the antibodies and T cell clones made against earlier versions of the virus, or against the vaccines may not be effective, there will be others, which will remain effective. (...) If half, or two-thirds, or whatever it is, of the immune response is not going to be effective, and you’re left with the residual half, then the more boosted that is the better.”

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South African health authorities have conveyed (to global health authorities) that they are witnessing “very low hospitalization” directly linked to Omicron, although the new Covid variant of concern is “highly transmissible” and patients are experiencing extreme fatigue even with mild disease.

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IndraStra Global: Omicron: The Evolving Story of New SARS-CoV-2 Variant
Omicron: The Evolving Story of New SARS-CoV-2 Variant
By IndraStra Global News Team
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