Covid-19 Omicron variant: Just when things were coming back to normal and people started to adapt the presence of Covid-19 while taking precautions, the advent of the new variant has brought everything again on high alert. SARS-CoV-2 the viral strain which is causing the Covid-19 infection is undergoing multiple mutations after its first detection in 2019. While Delta Variant was said to be highly infectious, the new variant has been classified as a new mutant strain that alters the behaviour of the virus.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is highly contagious and has been widely circulating in South Africa as a ‘variant of concern’(VoC). The variant is named ‘Omicron’. The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021.
The new variant of Coronavirus i.e The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The Network of Genomics Surveillance (NGS-SA) in South Africa detected a group of related SARS-CoV-2 viruses that belong to a lineage named B.1.1.529.
Technical Advisory Group’s early assessment on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution and NGS-SA has revealed that the new variant can be even more transmissible than the last VoC, Delta variant. This can also invade immunity which has been protected by the ongoing vaccines.
The new variants of SARS-Cov -2 are under constant monitoring of health authorities and the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution at WHO. These organisations identify the mutations and further studies the transmissibility and severity of infection.
Talking about the new variant, the preliminary investigation about B.1.1.529 has revealed that it has multiple spike protein mutations and is highly infectious.
According to NGS-SA, the new VoC has undergone around 30 mutations. Experts have tagged B.1.1.529 formed following “very unusual constellations of mutations”.
As per the statement of The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of South Africa the new variant Omicron has “no unusual symptoms”. Although just like the Delta variant many people have been found asymptomatic.
NICD has said that the deletion within the S gene in the virus will be helpful in rapid identification of the variant but “most other targets (including the N and RdRp genes) remain unaffected from specimens tested”.
Therefore the new variant may not 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.
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