Experts have yet to determine to true severity and threat the new covid variant, Omicron, poses due to its novel nature.
What We Know So Far About The New Covid Variant Omicron
South African studies have discovered a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, that has several mutations and is believed to be extremely aggressive.
The World Health Organization has classified it as a variant of concern, and a number of countries are trying to control it, by restricting flights from southern Africa.
Scientists are working 24 hours a day to analyse the variant and better comprehend its characteristics.
Here is a quick summary of what is known about Omicron as of today – only days after it was discovered – as revealed by South African scientists.
source LA Times
Where Did It Come From?
Although the origin of the variant is unknown at the moment, South African scientists were the first to report its finding on November 25.
Cases had been reported in Hong Kong and Botswana by that time. Israel and Belgium identified the variant a day later.
On November 23, scientists uncovered a new variant with a “very unusual constellation of mutations."
While most of the mutations are well-known and influence transmissibility and immune evasion, a large number of others are novel.
It has the “most mutations we have seen to date," according to Professor Mosa Moshabela, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s deputy vice chancellor for research and innovation.
He highlighted that “some of these mutations we have seen before like in Delta and Beta," but that is unlike others, and “we don’t know what the combination of those mutations will translate into."
Tulio de Oliveira, a prominent virologist, said that there were perhaps 50 mutations in all, including 30 on the spike protein, which is the focus of the majority of vaccines since it is responsible for the virus’s ability to enter cells.
The rapid increase in new daily Covid cases in South Africa has experts speculating it may be due to the new variant’s transmissibility.
Although not all of the cases can be attributed to Omicron, the daily Covid positive rate increased this week from 3.6% on Wednesday to 6.5% on Thursday, 9.1% on Friday, and 9.2% on Saturday.
“Some of the mutations that are expressed have previously been shown to enable the virus to spread easily and quickly, and because of that we suspect that the (new variant) is going to spread quickly," Moshabela said.
Several of the genetic mutations displayed by the virus are reported to help the virus in evading immunity.
However, it is unknown what effect this will have on vaccinations.
Concerning the severity of the variation, experts claim it was discovered this week, leaving little time for comprehensive investigation.