Omicron: All We Know About The New COVID-19 Variant

Dec 21, 2021
4 min read

If you began to believe the world was finally recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, that things were going to go back to normal, there is some bad news for you. With the coronavirus pandemic crisis, it seems that things are far from over.

A completely new COVID-19 mutation, named 'Omicron', has been discovered. The scientists in South Africa and Botswana were the first ones to identify this mutation. The novel mutation, called Omicron, was quickly found and disseminated through continuing genetic surveillance, and the WHO labelled it as a variation of concern less than a week after it was discovered.

While worldwide scientists work to learn more about this new variation, here's a summary of all that we know so far.

What is the new Omicron variant of Covid?

A new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VoC), omicron2, was revealed on November 25, 2021, roughly 23 months after the first recorded case of COVID and after an estimated 260 million infections and 52 million fatalities worldwide.

Omicron was born into a COVID-19-weary world, overflowing with frustration and despair at the pandemic's enormous severe social, emotional, and economic consequences. Although earlier VoCs appeared in a world where passive immunity to COVID-19 infections was frequent, this fifth VoC appears at a time when global vaccination immunity is developing.

Why is the COVID-19 variant Omicron concerning?

The biggest fears concerning Omicron are whether it is more contagious or more dangerous than other VoCs, and if it may bypass vaccination protection. Although clear immunological and medical evidence is still lacking, we may generalize from what is known about omicron mutations to offer advance warning on disease transmission, morbidity, and immunological evasion.

Omicron possesses multiple deletions and over 30 mutations, many of which correspond with those seen in the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta VoCs. Enhanced transmission rate, stronger viral binding ability, and antibody escape have all been linked to these deletions and alterations. Further omicron mutations with documented consequences include those that improve transmissibility and alter binding affinity. Concerning variants are more transmissible, less susceptible to detection, and less sensitive to vaccinations and treatments.

How easily transmissible is the Omicron variant of COVID-19?

The Omicron mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is anticipated to spread more quickly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, albeit how quickly Omicron spreads in comparison to Delta is uncertain. According to the CDC, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or have no symptoms, everyone with Omicron contamination is predicted to transfer the virus to others.

Omicron's effect on disease transmission is a source of worry. A greater transmission rate is predicted if the converging omicron mutations maintain their known effects, especially because of mutations near the furin cleavage site. Early clinical data shows that cases are on the rise in South Africa, as are PCR tests that fail to detect the S-gene target.

According to the data, positive PCR tests among patients who had previously tested positive imply an increase in cases of re-infection in South Africa, according to the data. However, the increased use of fast antigen testing and the inadequate recording of negative findings have made it more difficult to interpret positive test rates, which have climbed to nearly four times the prior rate in the last week. Despite this restriction, the rise in re-infection instances is consistent with the immune-escape alterations seen in Omicron.

Is the Omicron variant worse than Delta?

Although it would take several weeks to assess the prevalence and severity of the new Covid-19 variation Omicron, top US scientist Anthony Fauci said that early evidence showed it was not worse than previous strains, and maybe lesser dangerous.

According to Fauci, the new variety is "clearly highly transmissible," maybe much more than the Delta variant, the present prevalent worldwide strain.

According to epidemiological data gathered from throughout the world, re-infections are also more common with Omicron. Thus, although Omicron is expected to be highly transmissible, it is unclear if it is more transmissible than delta. However, preliminary evidence suggests that it is spreading fast against a backdrop of continued delta-variant transmission and strong natural immunity to the delta variation. Omicron will supplant delta as the most common variation in South Africa, if the current trend continues.

Laboratory trials to assess the efficacy of antibodies from existing vaccinations against Omicron should be available in the "next few days to a week," according to Fauci, the long-time head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

What can you do to protect yourself against the new variant?

The most critical thing a person can really do to prevent the transmission and safeguard themselves from the virus, as per the current recommendations, is to be vaccinated. Even when additional information regarding how well the existing vaccinations will protect against the variation becomes available, all of the WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines have shown success in avoiding serious disease and death from the virus.

Vaccination not just helps in protecting a person from COVID-19 transmission, but it also protects friends and family, acquaintances, neighbors, and societies by blocking the virus from spreading and mutating. People should also continue to use non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 measures such as using hand sanitizer (washing hands), social distance, masks, and keeping away from big gatherings.

Final Thoughts

This new variant of COVID-19 has issued an even louder warning to scale-up immunization throughout the globe, given the stark inequalities in vaccination rates between affluent and poorer nations. Another version isn't required to demonstrate how interrelated we are. Indeed, the new type, as well as the pandemic as a whole, has simply served to confirm what we already knew. This has highlighted the reality that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and the COVID-19 virus will continue to mutate and spread, especially in nations where the majority of the population is unvaccinated.

The best way to win the pandemic fight is to demonstrate unity and stay focused on taking the safest measures in a unified manner.