One scientist called it “horrific,” while another said it was the worst type they’d ever seen. While another confirmed that current is the most severely altered version uncovered so far.
South Africa’s outbreak is still in its infancy, with only a few confirmed cases, but there are signs that it is spreading outside that region. How fast the new variation spreads, its potential to evade some of the protection provided by immunizations, and what can be done about it are among some of the immediate questions.
Here’s everything we know about it-
What is it called?
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday recognized the B.1.1.529 variation as a variant of concern (VOC) for its “concerning” alterations and since “preliminary research shows an elevated risk of reinfection with this variant”.
An alphabetical designation is used by the WHO system to provide a non-threatening term that does not link novel variants to a specific area where they were initially found. The new variant is being called Omicron.
When was the Omicron variant first detected?
B.1.1.529 was discovered on Tuesday and is a threat since it has a large number of mutations, which might allow it to bypass immunity. South Africa’s Gauteng province, which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg, has seen a significant increase in the number of cases during the past two weeks.
When the top medical adviser of the UK Health and Security Agency saw this variety, he said it was “the most frightening we’ve encountered,” which immediately alerted international watchdogs.
Where did it come from?
Despite the initial association, this variation did not originate in Gauteng. Botswana was the first place to find evidence of the variation on November 11th. According to the researchers, the unusual mutations in the genome suggest that it was formed during a protracted infection of an immunocompromised individual such as an HIV/AIDS host, according to researchers.
Is it more transmissible?
The picture isn’t fully clear, but it’s becoming more and more worrisome. More than 1,200 new cases have been reported in South Africa since the onset of this week, up from 273 diagnoses on November 16th. In Gauteng province, the variant was found in over 80% of the samples, and preliminary analysis indicated that it is quickly becoming the dominant strain.
For entire Africa, the epidemic’s R-value is assessed to be 1.47, whereas, in Gauteng, it is 1.93. Precautionary precautions have been taken owing to this statistical blip, which could be related to a super-spreader outbreak.
Will existing vaccines work against it?
Many mutations have previously been linked to a potential to bypass existing immune protection, and this is a grave concern for researchers. Several experiments are underway to see if antibodies can effectively neutralize the new version. Using real-world data on re-infection ratios will also help shed light on any shift in immunity.
Scientists are anticipating that the aforementioned variant will be invisible to existing antibodies and the current vaccines might not prove effective. As a result, the mission still is to boost vaccination rates as well as third-round of doses for the specific age groups.
Stay tuned with GeeksULTD for more updates.