Monday, August 15

Ómicron: is the new variant of the coronavirus really so dangerous?

  • Fernando Gonzalez Candelas *
  • The Conversation

A gloved hand holds a test tube labeled with the omicron variant

Image source, Getty Images

The identification of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa, characterized by a large number of mutations (55 in the entire genome, 32 in protein S or spicule) and the vertiginous increase in its relative incidence in that population has skyrocketed once again the alerts on a global scale.

Several countries have closed air traffic with South Africa and there are experts who indicate that it is “the most worrying variant that we have seen to date”. The WHO has elevated it to the category of “worrying variant” and has designated it with the Greek letter omicron.

But, with the available data, can we accept the relevance of these statements? Are they based on demonstrations or are they conjecture? When can we define a new variant as of concern and what consequences does this have on our strategy in the face of the pandemic? I will try in the following paragraphs to shed some light on these issues.

The genomic sequence of the omicron variant (lineage B.1.1.529 in the PANGO system, or lineage 21K of NextStrain) shows 55 mutations compared to the original Wuhan virus, 32 of them located in the protein S or spicule, the most important for its role in the infection of cells and the immune response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.