The World Health Organization described the general risk at a global level in relation to this variant, which accumulates a large number of mutations, as “very high”.
After the appearance of the omicron variant of the coronavirus and the beginning of its spread in the world, several experts wonder if the number of infections with this strain can exceed that of infections by the delta variant.
Currently this new variant raises many questions, and one of them is how fast it spreads. “The question is in fact how transmissible omicron is compared to delta “, asks in this context John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York (USA), quoted by Reuters .
The agency reports that experts will analyze public data to determine if infections with omicron begin to exceed those of delta, which could take between three and six weeks depending on the speed of spread of the strain.
George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology, preventive medicine, pediatrics and history at the University of California, said on Sunday that the new strain in question is already surpassing the delta in southern Africa .
Meanwhile, David Ho, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University (New York), thinks that the spread of the omicron variant in the middle of the delta domain, which displaced other variants of the coronavirus, is something “worrying” .
Severity and resistance to vaccines
Other questions to which an answer is sought refer to the severity of the disease caused by this variant of the coronavirus as well as its resistance to vaccines.
Regarding the severity, Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert in molecular virology and microbiology at the Baylor School of Medicine, stated that there are various reports: “Some say it is a very mild disease and others [report] some serious cases in South African hospitals. “.
In turn, Alexánder Guíntsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the Russian anticovid drug Sputnik V, told that severe cases of the disease after being infected with omicron can develop over a period longer than in the case of delta infection due to the large number of mutations related to the first, a circumstance that would give the human body more time to develop immunity, he maintains.
Melita Vujnovich, WHO representative in Russia, said last week that the omicron variant may be more dangerous than others, but reiterated that “you have to wait a bit” to ensure it, adding that the beta variant also acted in a similar way and had “such possibilities”.
Regarding the effectiveness of the omicron vaccines, there are diverse opinions on the resistance of the new variety to the drugs. David Ho affirms that “the antibodies of the vaccines attack three regions” of the protein Spike, or spike, of the coronavirus and that omicron has mutations in these zones, which could point to a considerable level of resistance of the strain . For his part, John Wherry, director of the Penn Institute of Immunology (Philadelphia) argues that the vaccine will probably prevent those infected with omicron from having to be hospitalized.
“Very high” risk
Until now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has described the general risk at the global level in relation to this variant as “very high” , although it has highlighted that there are still “considerable uncertainties” about its potential to resist vaccines.
The concern about omicron is mainly due to the accumulation of an “unprecedented” number of mutations in the Spike protein (up to 32), which is a fundamental part of the serum developed to date to combat the disease. In addition, some of the mutations detected are also present in the already known variants, such as delta and alpha , and are associated with greater transmissibility and evasion of the defenses of the immune system, such as antibodies.
The appearance of the new variant, B.1.1.529 , has caused some thirty countries to have already announced the restriction of international mobility.