Watch Netflix for a Year!
Get Here : https://bit.ly/3eunvy5
UC Riverside experts share their thoughts on the newvariant.
The heavily mutated variant of COVID-19, named Omicron by the World Health Organization, or WHO, has been detected in several countries. How worried should we be about this variant? Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to President Biden, has said it would take a couple of weeks before Omicron’s threat could be judged. Meanwhile, experts at the University of California, Riverside, share their thoughts on this new variant of.
Karine Le Roch
Director, Center for Infectious Disease and Vector Research
“Mutations in the spike protein can affect transmission and the severity of the disease but can also affect vaccine efficacy.”
— Le Roch
What is Omicron and how is it different from other variants?
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, mutate over time. Omicron is a new SARS-CoV-2 variant that has been identified in South Africa a few days ago. It has been described as variant of concern by the WHO Technical Advisory Group on SAR-CoV-2 Virus Evolution, or TGA-VE. Several mutations in the Omicron genome have been identified, including 32 variations in the spike protein, a protein essential for the virus to infect host cells and cause infection. It is also the protein that has been used to design vaccines against COVID-19. Mutations in the spike protein can affect transmission and the severity of the disease but can also affect vaccine efficacy. While it will take days or weeks to determine if these mutations significantly affect transmission and disease severity, it is important to reduce the spread of COVID-19 virus: Avoid crowded spaces, wear a mask, keep a physical distance from others, and get fully vaccinated as existing vaccines are still likely to offer protection from severe illness and death. It will also be critical to strengthen surveillance, including testing if we want to better understand the characteristics of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus.
Dr. David Lo
Distinguished professor of biomedical sciences, School of Medicine
“Individuals given the available vaccines are still very likely to have significant protection from severe disease and death.”
How worried should we be about Omicron? Is it more transmissible than the Delta variant?
While it is still too early to know a lot of the details on the Omicron variant, emergence of a new variant like this was to be expected given the relatively low vaccination rates globally, as well as in regions of the United States. The sequence data suggests that this novel variant acquired a lot of new mutations that took time to accumulate, possibly in an unimmunized patient. Its rapid spread — and known presence in multiple countries around the world — is certainly going to be further enabled by the large number of unvaccinated individuals around the world. Early data suggests that it might be more transmissible than previous variants, but as of today, the numbers may be too low yet to know exactly how much more transmissible it may be. In any case, despite the number of mutations, there appear to be enough conserved sequences so that individuals given the available vaccines are still very likely to have significant protection from severe disease and death.
Will more people getting vaccinated help us all against Omicron?
Yes. Higher rates of vaccination will clearly help reduce the severity of infections and reduce transmission from infected individuals. It will also help prevent newer variants emerging. We can also anticipate that in the next few years there will be updated vaccines that are designed based on scientists’ understanding of how the new variants look.