Omicron is a variant of Covid-19 first sequenced in South Africa with instances now current in over 20 international locations and on all continents.
It was named solely per week in the past and it’ll take time to grasp its influence on the pandemic.
Here’s a abstract of what we all know and what questions encompass the brand new model of the virus.
The place did it come from?
We do not know. South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim says it was detected first in Botswana after which in South Africa the place the announcement of the brand new variant was made on November 25.
On Tuesday Dutch authorities introduced that six days earlier than that on November 19 a person had examined optimistic for what additionally turned out to be the Omicron variant.
Nonetheless, the World Well being Group (WHO) stated “the primary identified laboratory-confirmed case was recognized from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021”, with out specifying the place.
“It has in all probability been circulating in South Africa for longer than we thought – since early October,” Jean-Francois Delfraissy, president of the French authorities’s scientific advisory board informed AFP.
Why is it “of concern”?
The day after South Africa’s announcement the WHO named the brand new variant after a Greek letter, like earlier variations, and labeled it a variant “of concern”.
The classification relies on Omicron’s genetic traits and in addition the way it appears to have behaved within the inhabitants thus far.
Omicron’s distinctive genetic construction interprets to a number of modifications to the spike protein which may make it extra contagious and more durable to manage through present vaccines – however these potentialities are thus far theoretical.
In the meantime, instances within the Gauteng province of South Africa, which incorporates Johannesburg, have gone up quickly with many recognized as Omicron.
Researchers internationally are wanting into how contagious Omicron is, the severity of illness it causes, and whether or not it’s extra immune to vaccines.
The WHO has stated the method will doubtless take weeks.
Will it substitute Delta?
The Delta variant is at present the type of Covid that’s the most sequenced throughout the globe.
Naturally-competing variants that advanced after Delta (like lesser-known Mu and Lambda) haven’t managed to overhaul it within the inhabitants — however the unfold of Omicron in Gauteng suggests it may.
On Thursday the European Centre for Illness Management (ECDC) stated that if the sample in South Africa is reproduced in Europe, Omicron may make up nearly all of Covid instances inside a couple of months.
Nonetheless, Delta was by no means very current in South Africa, so a comparability with Europe is difficult to attract at this stage.
Writing in British every day The Guardian, US professional Eric Topol stated it’s not clear whether or not Omicron’s unfold is due to “excessive transmission, like Delta, or immune evasion”.
Immune evasion is when a virus can infect an individual who has already gained immunity both from earlier an infection or from vaccination.
Is it extra harmful?
On Sunday, a South African physician stated she had handled about 30 instances of Omicron and had solely encountered “gentle signs” in these sufferers.
The scientific neighborhood warned towards drawing conclusions primarily based on this testimony for the reason that sufferers have been largely younger and therefor much less vulnerable to critical Covid.
To date, all instances detected in Europe are “both asymptomatic or with gentle signs”, in response to the EDCD.
This doesn’t imply that Omicron is not going to trigger critical Covid – however it does depart the door open to a uncommon optimistic speculation.
“If Omicron could be very contagious however does not trigger extreme Covid (and does not fill hospital beds), it may confer group immunity and contribute to creating SARS-CoV-2 right into a benign seasonal virus, which might assist finish the disaster,” French virologist Bruno Canard tweeted.
He added, nevertheless, that such a situation could be a “stroke of luck”.
What about vaccines ?
Once more, it’s too early to say whether or not vaccines shall be much less efficient towards transmission or extreme illness from Omicron than towards different variants.
“We must see whether or not the antibodies produced by present vaccines nonetheless work and to what extent – whether or not they nonetheless stop extreme sickness,” stated Enouf.
Whereas ready for real-world information, scientists try to reply this query by way of lab exams.
However even when vaccines are much less efficient towards Omicron it doesn’t suggest they are going to be completely ineffective.
Along with the antibody response that could possibly be weakened by mutations in Omicron, the physique has secondary T-cell responses that may shield towards extreme sickness.
“We suppose that the cell response shall be partly efficient towards Omicron,” stated Delfraissy.
(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by wantpassport employees and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)