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What is the news?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 called B.1.1.529 as a ‘variant of concern’.
This variant has been named as Omicron.
How the new variant was discovered?
The new variants of Covid-19 are detected through whole genome sequencing of samples that have tested positive for the virus. This process involves checking every sequence obtained for differences compared to what we know is circulating in the world. When we see multiple differences, we investigate further to confirm what we’ve noticed.
Based on this method, the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa. The variant has now spread to many nearby countries.
How did the Omicron Variant evolve?
The Omicron Variant might have evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient.
Why is the Omicron variant worrying?
Omicron Variant carries certain mutations that are concerning. They have not been observed in this combination before, and the spike protein alone has over 30 mutations.
This is important, because the spike protein is responsible for the virus’s entry in human cells, and it also makes up most of the vaccines.
Moreover, the mutations are also associated with more efficient cell entry, indicating enhanced transmissibility.
Source: This post is based on the following articles
“Why this new Covid strain ‘B.1.1.529’ is more lethal that Delta variant” published in Business Standard on 27th Nov 2021
“The hunt for coronavirus variants: how the new one was found and what we know so far” published in Down To Earth on 27th Nov 2021.