Omicron: Here’s what we know so far about the latest version of the concern

Omicron entered our dictionary on November 26 at exactly 12 a.m. Eastern Time, according to Google Trends, which registered a huge increase in online searches. Since then, searches have only increased as people search the web for news on the latest version of the concern.

The new version, however, is that researchers have been scrambling to unravel its secrets – possibly for a few weeks, but possibly more – and begging for patience. “We know that it is absolutely critical to get a rapid understanding of disease severity with Omicron (particularly in vaccinated individuals and reinfection), but it is too early for reliable data,” cautioned Dr. Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

So, as more cases are detected around the world, including in Canada, no one is sure how Omicron will stack up against the current COVID-19 variant heavyweight, Delta, or how it will affect vaccines currently approved for use. Will do Still, there are a few things we do know:

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What is Omicron?

First, a little background: Viruses mutate regularly, that’s in their nature. So while experts have identified many mutations or evolutions of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, only a few rise to the level of the labeled variants of concern. Perhaps the two most well-known are Alpha and Delta, which were due for Canada’s second and third waves in the winter and spring of 2020-21. (The Pango network tracks their lineage; or, for example, alpha—aka b.1.1.1.7—comes from B.1.1. genealogy, sandwiched between B.1.1.5 and B.1.1.8, neither of which was an overdose.)

Researchers in South Africa were concerned about Omicron because of its specific mutation, and the rapid increase in cases in the region. Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) in Stellenbosch, told a press conference that “this edition surprised us.” Notably, they had found more than 30 mutations on the spike protein of the coronavirus.

That spike protein is important, not only because the SARS-CoV-2 virus is latch on healthy Not only to cells in the body, but also because the current crop of vaccines target the same spike protein, using harmless versions of it to induce an immune response in people.

Read: Here are the COVID vaccines for kids. How well have we protected children so far?

Experts are concerned that mutations in Omicron’s spike protein could mean that vaccines are less effective, or that people who have already recovered from COVID-19 may be more susceptible to this new variant. Also, the researchers caution against thinking that we are returning in March 2020. For one, they don’t believe that Omicron will avoid vaccines entirely. Apart from this, now there are many more treatments for COVID. And vaccine makers are already pouring in data to see how they might need to change the makeup of COVID-19 vaccines.

The second concern is how permeable Omicron might be. From the point of view of this virus, transmittance equals success. The gamma variant was regarded as a dangerous animal until it was effectively separated by a far more permeable delta.

Who found it?

According to local reportThe new variant was discovered by Dr. Sikhuli Moyo, a Zimbabwean-born scientist working at the Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory, Botswana. He was doing genomic sequencing on positive COVID-19 test samples and noticed that many had mutations that had not been seen before. Around the same time in neighboring South Africa, researchers were discovering similar mutations in test samples from a cluster of cases in Gauteng.

Read: What we should do as we move into the fifth wave of the pandemic

South Africa reported the new version, B.1.1.1.529 on 26 November and asked for one Emergency meeting of the World Health Organization. On 26 November, the WHO named it Omicron and classified it as a variant of interest.

Right now, researchers, especially those in southern Africa, are sharing information with colleagues around the world. On November 29, Dr. de Oliveira stated that South Africa’s Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation uploaded all of its raw sequencing data to Omicron in the US. National Center for Biotechnology Information website, (Things are moving so fast that Twitter actual notification System.)

What does this mean for the world?

Well, no one is sure yet. It takes time to investigate new forms and determine their threat level.

Also, the virus will keep mutating. It can be slowed down and possibly stopped by vaccines but only if the whole world is vaccinated. and right now, Most of Africa is still waiting To arrive at the dose, while other regions battle the disinformation that is slowing vaccination efforts. In sub-Saharan Africa, the vaccine leader is South Africa, with only 25 percent of people fully vaccinated, followed by Botswana with 20 percent, According to our world in the data,

READ: The road to full pandemic recovery: The ‘pockets’ of unconnected Canadians

What does this mean for Canada?

Canada is still very vulnerable: 22 percent of our entire population is illiterate, According to Health Canada, And, as we saw during large outbreaks in Alberta and Saskatchewan this summer, viruses can easily spread to areas where Vaccination rates are low, Furthermore, when the number of cases rises, hospitalizations mean that overcrowding health care systems have to postpone other non-emergency surgeries and treatments.

Why Are Countries Finding Omicron Cases So Quickly?

Researchers in South Africa discovered a way to quickly identify omicrons through a standard PCR nasal swab test. As explained by the World Health Organization its technical briefing Document on the variant: “Many laboratories have indicated that for the widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (known as S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and This test can therefore be used as a marker for this type, pending sequencing confirmation.”

Public health officials around the world now had a way to quickly scan positive COVID tests for the new variant, even while waiting for full confirmation through genomic sequencing, which takes about 10 days. Huh. And of course, they started reporting cases.

Read: Will this flu season be worse than usual?

Some countries like Israel and Japan are closing their borders. Want Canada?

One can’t help but avoid Omicron’s potential dangers, which is why many governments, including Canada, quickly piled additional public health requirements on travelers. On 26 November, when no cases were reported in Canada, Ottawa introduces new testing measures In place for Canadians and residents who were in Southern Africa, while recently banning citizens living in those countries. two days later, two possible cases Found within our limits.

As more specific testing is done, more cases are being found around the world, including across Europe and Australia, which are not on Ottawa’s travel ban list. As of 29 November, there were at least 184 confirmed and 1,305 probable cases worldwide. A tracker from Newsnodes.com,

as Canada and the world searched with deltaOnce community spread occurs, border restrictions rapidly lose their value.

Why is it called an Omicron?

Well, b.1.1.529 is a mouthful. World Health Organization on 1 June Adopted a more user friendly A naming system based on the letters of the Greek alphabet for the general public. While the next unused letter after mu (a variant recognized in Colombia in summer) was nu, it and the next letter, xi, were both considered very confusing (many referred to nu as “new”, meaning some different, while Xi is a very common surname). So, WHO went to the next option: Omicron.

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