How is it different from other variants? Can it evade vaccines? How transmissible is it?

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Omicron variants have been identified on all continents except Antarctica. Credits: Aliexpress / Canva

Omicron, The first COVID-19 mutant upgraded to a Variant of Concern (VOC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) The problem of the dayCame to the radar of Lancet Institute of South Africa, upon November 8th, I suspect it was in circulation before.

Because of their excellence Genome monitoring system, South African health authorities We reported cases of this variant very quickly. Unlike other variants, Omicron can be detected using reliable PCR tests without the need for whole-genome sequencing, allowing rapid monitoring of its spread.

By November 23 1,100 cases From 10 cases recorded in early November, some of the variants detected in Gauteng, South Africa (73% of all positive cases). As of December 3, Omicron officially outperformed the South African Delta variant.

The Effective reproduction The number of omicrons (the number of people infected with one infected person) is 6 years and over, delta Estimated to be about 5, very Infectious disease favorite chicken pox It is 9.

Where did Omicron spread?

Omicron variants Confirmed on all continents except Antarctica.. Cases reported outside South Africa appear to be primarily travel-related at this time and occur primarily among vaccinated people. but, Expansion to the community teeth Already afraid..

Forecasts by many countries Omicron’s case will soon begin to overtake Delta’s case..Ontario Chief Medical Officer Reported on December 12th Omicron cases make up 10% of all positive cases in the state, and even with reduced levels of current social activity (75% of pre-pandemic levels), Omicron is highly infectious. It has been confirmed that.

How is Omicron different from other variants?

Mutants appear through changes or errors called mutations in the sequence of the viral genome, which is a series of genetic directives for the virus.

Omicron variants have significantly more mutations in their S gene, the gene that encodes the viral spike protein that is the key to providing access to the virus’ cells.Omicron has accumulated 50 mutations, including: 32 mutations With the S gene. In contrast, Alpha variant There are nine mutations in the S gene, delta There are 9 to 13 mutations.

Both are more contagious than the original variants, 50% and 100% contagious, respectively, and have challenged some vaccine protection.

It’s too early to say what to do with the Omicron variants. Since proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, mutations in the S gene cause amino acid substitutions, causing changes in the spiked protein. Due to the number of amino acid substitutions in Omicron’s peplomer, and duplication with those found in other VOCs and variants of interest (VOIs), the peplomer of this variant appears to be supercharged.

Omicron spike protein carry 6 unique amino acid substitutions Those not observed in other VOCs, the 7 substitutions found in one or more VOCs, the 3 substitutions that occur in all current VOCs, and the remaining substitutions are much less frequent in other variants. increase. Three amino acid substitutions common to all VOCs are associated with antigenic escape and increased VOC transmissibility and infection.

Omicron is “is it a super variety?”

As a scientist, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this variant. How did the Omicron spike protein accumulate 32 amino acid substitutions in a very short time and respond to many of those substitutions with a single protein? Did this protein become the perfect key to access our cells and at the same time camouflage itself from the antibody? Does Omicron cause more serious illness?

It’s not easy to say when and how Omicron evolved, but it’s true that the mutations acquired by this variant are Scientist scratches his head..

Huge number of Amino acid substitution Notable for peplomer. Proteins can be very flexible and more efficient in their ability to respond to these substitutions. However, this often costs a lot of money for microorganisms (viruses in this case) because replacement requires energy and resources.

First, for each useful mutation, a compensatory mutation must also occur in the gene to ensure that the structure of the protein is not compromised.

Second, if such a large number of mutations are present in the S gene, the viral replication mechanism must be modified to generate numerous errors. However, changing this mechanism can lead to virus replication problems.

Finally, the virus relies on the host’s resources to build proteins such as host-specific RNA molecules (transfer RNAs) and amino acids. These resources, and in some cases other resources, may not meet the virus’s requirements and may lead to virus malfunction. That is, the mutated virus can run into supply and demand issues.

In short, such “super-mutated” S genes are very likely to adversely affect the overall compatibility of the virus. In order to accommodate the production of the hypermutant S gene, something else needs to be reduced in efficiency. This decrease in fitness is normal in the microbial world. for example, Antibacterial resistance Driven by the use of antibiotics in bacteria. However, in the absence of bacteria, they are often energetically costly and often lose this property.

This suggests that Omicron variants may be more contagious (as they are today). Real World The data show (more than Delta), but it may not cause less serious illness.The Data from South Africa And confirmed cases around the world suggest that Omicron cases are not associated with serious illness or death.

Does the vaccine or previous infection protect against Omicron?

Current vaccines are designed to protect against COVID-19 infections, that is, from hospitalization and death. However, performance has improved. Reduce infection (In the case of mRNA vaccine) 80% Suppressed transmission..

It is unclear whether Omicron variants can evade immunity induced by either natural infections or vaccines. but, Studies that have not yet been peer-reviewed Shows that reinfection with Omicron is much higher than that recorded during the beta and delta surges in South Africa.

This report suggests that immunity gained from previous infections with beta or delta mutants may not be able to prevent infection with ocmicrons. This finding could explain the rapid increase in Omicron cases in South Africa, where the majority of the population has been infected with alpha, beta, and delta surges.

Due to insufficient data, this study could not conclude on the protection of vaccine-induced immunity against Omicron. the Vaccination rate Only about 25 percent in South Africa. Breakthrough Omicron-related cases What is happening around the world suggests that Omicron may challenge vaccines in terms of infection.

Please note that the infection can be asymptomatic or mild. Vaccines are very likely to prevent severe COVID-19 infections. Recent reports from South Africa (not yet peer-reviewed) show.

In many countries, in the light of many reports that vaccine-induced (or spontaneously infectious) neutralizing antibodies have declined over time, Including CanadaIn order to protect their population from possible resurrections, we are in a hurry to manage booster shots and expand the scope of vaccination. Booster shot Clinical trials have shown protection from infection and disease severity Real world data..Recent report by Pfizer It was shown that booster shots can change the transmission orbit of Omicron.

What could Omicron look like in the near future?

Many laboratories around the world are assessing where Omicron stands in terms of its infectivity, pathogenicity, the severity of the disease it can cause, and its ability to circumvent vaccine protection. .. So for now, it’s a waiting game.

Here in Canada, we need to continue to raise the immunization rate for targeted people to 90% or higher. Vaccine works!!

Vaccine approval for children aged 5 to 11 will undoubtedly further expand the scope of the vaccine and change the course of infection of Omicron.

At the same time, we need to continue public health measures: face masks (Real world data Shows that they prevent the spread of the virus by 53%), physical distance (COVID-19) Aerial infections), Especially indoor hand hygiene and avoidance of large gatherings.

Finally, and equally important, is the emergence of Omicron. Mutant Once again, it reminds us how important it is to support vaccination campaigns in developing countries. The virus will continue to challenge the progress that developed countries make through vaccination as long as they find fertile lands to evolve anywhere in the world.


Omicron spreads faster and weakens jabs: WHO


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Quote: Omicron FAQ: How is it different from other variants? Can I avoid the vaccine? How contagious is it? (December 14, 2021) Obtained December 14, 2021 from https: //medicalxpress.com/news/2021-12-omicron-faq-variants-evade-vaccines.html

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