Omicron is the first sequenced variant of COVID-19 in South Africa, with cases currently present in more than 20 countries and on all continents.
Named just a week ago, it takes time to understand the impact on the pandemic.
This is a summary of what we know and the questions surrounding the new version of the virus.
Where did it come from?
do not understand. South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim states that it was first detected in Botswana and then in South Africa. Mutant Made on November 25th.
On Tuesday, Dutch officials announced on November 19, six days earlier, that individuals tested positive for what was found to be a variant of Omicron.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “The cases identified by the first known test were identified from the specimens collected on November 9, 2021 without specifying the location.”
“In South Africa, it’s been in circulation for longer than we expected, probably since early October,” said French President Jean-Francois del Freissy. Scientific advisory board I told AFP.
Why is it a “concern”?
The day after South Africa’s announcement, WHO named the new variant after the Greek alphabet, as in the previous version, and classified it as a “concerned” variant.
The classification is based on the genetic characteristics of Omicron and how it behaves in the population to date.
Omicron’s unique genetic structure means multiple changes to peplomer, which can increase the infectivity of current vaccines and make them difficult to control, but these possibilities are so far theoretical. is.
On the other hand, cases in Gauteng, South Africa, including Johannesburg, are increasing rapidly, many of which have been identified as Omicron.
Researchers around the world are investigating how contagious Omicron is, the severity of the disease it causes, and whether it is more resistant to the vaccine.
WHO states that this process will probably take several weeks.
Will you replace Delta?
Delta variants are currently the most sequenced form of COVID in the world.
Naturally competing variants that evolved after the Delta (such as the lesser-known Mu and Lambda) could not overtake it in the population, but the spread of Omicron in Houten does. It suggests that.
On Thursday, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) said that if the South African pattern were reproduced in Europe, Omicron could account for the majority of COVID cases within a few months.
However, it is difficult to make a comparison with Europe at this stage, as there were not many deltas in South Africa.
In the British daily The Guardian, US expert Eric Topol said it was not clear whether the Omicron epidemic was due to “a high infection like Delta, or an antigenic escape.”
Antigenic escape is when the virus can infect a person who has already been immunized by either a previous infection or vaccination.
Is it more dangerous?
On Sunday, South African doctors said she had treated about 30 cases of Omicron and only encountered “mild symptoms” in these patients.
The scientific community has warned against drawing conclusions based on this testimony because patients are mostly young and therefore at low risk of serious COVID.
So far, all cases detected in Europe are “either asymptomatic or mild”, according to the EDCD.
This does not mean that Omicron does not cause serious COVID, but it leaves the door to a rare optimistic hypothesis open.
“If Omicron is highly contagious but does not cause severe COVID (and does not fill the hospital bed), it provides herd immunity and contributes to making SARS-CoV-2 a benign seasonal virus. “French virologist Bruno Canard tweeted.
But he added that such a scenario would be a “stroke of luck.”
How about the vaccine?
Again, it is premature to say whether the vaccine is less effective against infections from Omicron and serious illnesses than other variants.
“We need to see to what extent the antibodies produced by current vaccines still work and whether they still prevent serious illness,” Enouf said.
While waiting for real-world data, scientists are trying to answer this question through lab tests.
However, just because vaccines are not very effective against Omicron does not mean that they are completely ineffective.
In addition to antibody reactions that can be dampened by mutations in Omicron, the body has secondary T cell reactions that can be defended. Severe illness..
“We believe that the cellular response is partially effective against Omicron,” said Delphi Sea.
© 2021 AFP
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