A variant of concern: New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain has raised alarm all over the world. According to the information, Omicron has many spike protein mutations and is highly contagious. Omicron is a Greek word. Since the arrival of the Kovid-19 epidemic, many variants of it have come to the fore. Scientists are also keeping an eye on different variants of Corona. In this sequence, the committee formed to monitor genomics in South Africa recently discovered a new variant and named it B.1.1. The World Health Organization has named it Omicron.

Alt text=New Covid-19 Omicron Strain
New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

The term variant of concern for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is a category used for variants of the virus where mutations in their spike protein receptor-binding domain substantially increase binding affinity in the RBD-hACE2 complex, while also being linked to rapid spread in human populations

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

A new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant was first identified in South Africa. It has increased the concern around the world. Many countries are taking it seriously and are banning travel has prompted a fresh round of travel restrictions across the world and raised concern about what may be next in the pandemic.

The World Health Organization Friday indicated the strain, now named Omicron, as a variant of concern. Multiple studies are underway as authorities continue to monitor the variant. According to the experts, this is a serious variant. The variant is really more contagious.

How Omicron is more dangerous than Delta?

After the news of new variants of Corona, people’s mental problems are increasing. Many questions are arising in the mind. The team of doctors and experts is assuming that the new variant is more transmissible and it is efficient in defeating immunity faster. It is more dangerous than any variant till now. Such as, it can even infect the person who had taken full vaccine and booster doses.

However, the new variant is spreading rapidly in South Africa. Doctors and scientists are keeping a special eye on this and various studies are booster doses should be necessary and urgent. Doctors believe that the effectiveness of the vaccine increases significantly with a booster dose. At present, many countries of the world are banning travel restrictions to protect people from infection.

How and when New Covid-19 Omicron Strain detected?

The variant has first found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, and Belgium. A specimen from the first known case of the variant in South Africa was collected November 9, the WHO said Friday. Now, the number of variant cases seems to be increasing in nearly every province of the country, the WHO said. South Africa has currently fully vaccinated less than 36% of its adult population and its rate of new vaccinations had fallen in recent days, according to the country’s health department.

South African officials also initially said there was one confirmed case in a traveler from South Africa to Hong Kong. Friday, Hong Kong health authorities identified a second case of the variant among returning travelers on the same floor of a designated quarantine hotel. Health authorities ordered at least 12 people in nearby rooms to undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing and two weeks of quarantine in a government center. Also on Friday, the Belgian government said an individual who had recently traveled from Egypt and was unvaccinated, tested positive for the variant, marking the first case in Europe.

Current findings of the New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

Health authorities around the world and Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus. Evolution at WHO constantly monitors the new variants of SARS-CoV -2 to identify which ones are important or dangerous. In terms of transmissibility and severity of infection among others.

Introductory investigation so far is B.1.1.529 has multiple spike protein mutations and is highly infectious. Moreover, South Africa reported a four-fold increase in new cases. In the last two weeks coinciding with the emergence of B.1.1.529.

Covid cases with the new variant B.1.1.529 have shot up in South Africa’s Gauteng province including Pretoria and Johannesburg. This can be present in other provinces as well. Moreover, NGA-SA suggests cluster outbreaks have led to a sustained increase in cases.

Series of mutations that formed the new Omicron variant

NGS-SA said that the new VoC has undergone at least 30 mutations in the region. And encodes spike protein responsible for virus entry to human cells. The expert body has tagged B.1.1.529 formed following “very unusual constellations of mutations”.

Some of the mutations are similar to Alpha and Delta variants. They are identified with a known phenotypic impact that can affect immunity and transmissibility. Others are once in a while noticed and not all around portrayed. Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researched more to know about its transmissibility and vaccine evasion characteristics.

The new variant also carries the R203K+G204R mutations associated with increased infectivity— also seen in Alpha, Gamma, and Lambda.

How dangerous is New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

The WHO has admitted that the new variant Omicron can prove to be dangerous for people. According to the experts, it is spreading rapidly. It is quite dangerous and infection has been found in both the people who have been vaccinated. The third booster dose was given to an infected person in Israel along with both doses of corona vaccines. Scientists are doing a study and found that the new variant is spreading faster than any other variant including Delta.

Its mutations are raising concern

This variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with more than 30 in the key spike protein. The structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack. According to the South African genomic scientists said earlier this week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the B.1.1.529 variant. Which was first reported in South Africa on November 24 as “Omicron.”

South Africa has got at least 100 cases of the variant.

WHO said this variant has a large number of mutations. Some of which was “concerning,” and added that preceding proof suggests an increased risk of reinfection. It is potentially more contagious than previously detected variants.

Omicron is currently being studied to determine more of its characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, and immune escape.

Symptoms for new Omicron variant

According to The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of South Africa, the new variant currently shows, no unusual symptoms. however, like the Delta variant, some individuals are asymptomatic.

Can the RT-PCR tests finds the New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

Although NICD said deletion within the S gene will help in rapid identification of the variant but “most other targets (including the N and RdRp genes) remain unaffected from specimens tested” Hence it is unlikely that the new variant will affect the overall PCR test sensitivity. “These PCR tests typically detect at least two different SARS-CoV-2 targets, which serves as a backup in the case of a mutation arising in one,” the NICD said.

How New Covid-19 Omicron Strain contrasts and different variations?

While mutations — and new variants — of the virus are spreading, experts say there’s more reason for concern with Omicron. Such as a lot of variants pop up over the last five, six months, and most of them have not amounted to much. It’s acting differently, it looks like it’s much more contagious than even the Delta variant.

The Delta varietn fueled a virulent summer Covid-19 surge in the US and helped drive recent surges across Europe. One document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the Delta variant was about as transmissible as chickenpox. When experts looked at other variants, it usually took several months for those strains to be dominant. The most common strain of the virus spreading in one area. This one has become predominant rapidly in South Africa in the areas where it’s been found.

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

Within a matter of days to weeks as opposed to months, the number of cases in South Africa is quite low. It can be for other reasons as well, not just because it’s more transmissible. But the speed with which it has taken off is really unlike anything we’ve seen before. WHO officials also said in their statement Friday preliminary evidence suggests Omicron also poses a higher risk of reinfection, compared to other variants of concern.

Opinion of vaccine for New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

Scientists have yet to determine whether Omicron is vaccine-resistant.

Accordingly, to Moderna, it was rapidly working to test the ability of its vaccine to neutralize the variant. The result might be available in the coming weeks. The strain includes mutations as seen in the Delta variant. It may increase transmissibility and mutations such as in the Beta and Delta variants to promote immune escape. The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity. If its current vaccine and booster are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which Moderna said is testing. The company is also evaluating two multivalent booster candidates to see if they provide better protection against Omicron — both of which include some of the viral mutations present in the variant.

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

Moderna is likewise trying an Omicron-explicit supporter. The examination is going exceptionally quick as conceivable to execute system to address this variation. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the news discharge. AstraZeneca is likewise hoping to comprehend the effect Omicron has on its antibody. which isn’t right now approved for use in the US. AstraZeneca is in like manner coordinating investigation in regions where the variety has been perceived, to be explicit in Botswana and Eswatini, that will permit us to accumulate genuine data of Vaxzevria against this new disease variety,” a delegate for the association said Friday.

The company also said it is testing its antibody treatment, AZD7442, against the variant. AstraZeneca asked the US Food and Drug Administration in October to authorize emergency use of the treatment. Scientists at BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to make its Covid-19 vaccine, are also investigating the impact of the variant on their shot, with data expected within the next couple of weeks. A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told CNN in a statement the company was also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron.

It triggered new travel measures

Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been identified in Israel as a person coming from Malawi; Botswana; Belgium, and Hong Kong.

Despite countries scrambling to ban flights, the WHO earlier cautioned against imposing travel restrictions due to Omicron.

The organization said countries should take a risk-based and scientific approach when considering travel curbs in light of the variant — but alerted against restrictions.

New Covid-19 Omicron Strain

However, in addition to the UK, and the US, and the EU, a host of other countries have also announced restrictions:

  • Australia announced on Saturday that flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique would be suspended for 14 days. Non-Australians who have been in those countries in the past two weeks are now banned from entering Australia
  • Japan has announced that from Saturday, travellers from much of southern Africa will need to quarantine for 10 days and take a total of four tests during that time
  • India has ordered more rigorous screening and testing for travellers arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong
  • Iran will ban travellers from six southern African countries, including South Africa. Iranians arriving from the region will be admitted after testing negative twice, state TV says
  • Brazil also said it was restricting travel to the region from six countries in Africa

South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla let columnists know that the flight boycotts were “inappropriate”.

“The reaction of some of the countries, in terms of imposing travel bans, and such measures, are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization,” he said.

Besides Delta, Omicron, and the three other VOCs, there are currently two lower variants of interest and below that, a further seven under monitoring.

Delta, which is more transmissible than the original strain, is now overwhelmingly dominant around the world, having all but out-competed other variants.

What new precautions should one take against Omicron variant

Experts still stress vaccination to protect groups at high risk of hospitalization and death but real-time data have shown that high vaccination rates have the potential to reduce the strain on health systems.

Moreover, social distancing, masking, good ventilation in public indoor spaces, and washing or sanitizing hands and surfaces regularly are still necessary.

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