What we all know to this point

On November 24, 2021, the extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant was first reported to the World Well being Group (WHO) from South Africa. The Omicron variant has joined a number of different SARS-CoV-2 variants as a variant of concern (VOC), which signifies that this pressure is related to a rise in transmissibility and virulence, in addition to the power to scale back the effectiveness of public well being and social measures, in addition to obtainable diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of chronically infected and partially lysed cells (green) infected with a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (blue), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of chronically contaminated and partially lysed cells (inexperienced) contaminated with a variant pressure of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (blue), remoted from a affected person pattern. Picture captured on the NIAID Built-in Analysis Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit score: NIAID

A timeline of occasions in South Africa

In accordance with the WHO, the primary confirmed SARS-CoV-2 an infection with the Omicron variant was from a pattern that was collected on November 9, 2021. Nonetheless, over the previous a number of weeks, the variety of coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) instances in Africa have sharply elevated, with a rising variety of these instances testing constructive for the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant.

Though the each day variety of instances in South Africa stays low, with 2,828 instances reported on Friday, November 26, 2021, the velocity at which the Omicron variant seems to be infecting youthful South Africans has elevated concern amongst healthcare professionals on this nation. Extra particularly, Rudo Mathivha, the pinnacle of the intensive care unit at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital, acknowledged {that a} a lot youthful inhabitants of sufferers of their 20s and 30s are being admitted to the hospital for average to extreme illness, with a few of these sufferers requiring intensive care.

Notably, solely about 36% of the grownup inhabitants in South African has been vaccinated towards COVID-19. To this finish, solely about 65% of the South African sufferers who’ve just lately been admitted usually are not vaccinated, whereas Mathivha states that a lot of the remaining sufferers have solely acquired one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

What is understood in regards to the Omicron variant?

Since its preliminary identification, researchers have discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has a lot of mutations, of which embody greater than 30 adjustments to the spike protein. Importantly, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the goal of most present COVID-19 vaccines, performs a necessary position in how the virus acknowledges and enters host cells.

Of the 30 mutations on the spike protein, ten of those mutations have been recognized on the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. That is akin to the variety of mutations which have been discovered on this protein in different SARS-CoV-2 variants just like the Delta and Beta variants, which have two and three mutations, respectively, on this protein.

Though there’s restricted info obtainable on the importance of those mutations, you will need to observe that the entire mutations which have been recognized to have an effect on virus transmissibility have been recognized within the Omicron variant’s genome. Moreover, the E484A mutation has been recognized within the Omicron variant, which is positioned on the web site that class 2 antibodies can acknowledge, thus inflicting concern that this variant may evade motion by human antibodies towards SARS-CoV-2. Because of this mixture of mutations, researchers have suspected that the Omicron variant could also be profitable in lowering the neutralization actions elicited by immune responses generated from prior SARS-CoV-2 an infection and/or vaccination.

3D Illustration of COVID-19 Virus Structure Diagram. Corona Virus SARS-CoV-2, 2019 nCoV virus sheme. Full text description with sliced model and RNA on dark background.  Image Credit:Orpheus FX / Shutterstock
3D Illustration of COVID-19 Virus Construction Diagram. Corona Virus SARS-CoV-2, 2019 nCoV virus scheme.. Picture Credit score: Orpheus FX / Shutterstock

Confirmed Omicron instances

The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron instances first gave the impression to be confined to a cluster of infections amongst some college college students in Pretoria. Nonetheless, this cluster rapidly expanded as a whole bunch and, subsequently, 1000’s of individuals grew to become contaminated in Pretoria and, quickly after, within the nation’s largest metropolis of Johannesburg.

Current diagnostic checks point out that the Omicron variant may account for as much as 90% of recent instances in South Africa. Moreover, some early research have urged that this variant has a replica price of two, which signifies that every individual contaminated with the Omicron variant is more likely to unfold it to 2 different individuals.

Other than South Africa, researchers have additionally recognized the Omicron variant in Botswana, Hong Kong, Belgium, Israel, Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Italy. Because the variant seems to unfold quickly world wide, 13 extra instances have been recognized within the Netherlands, two in Australia, and two in Denmark. Notably, the 13 instances recognized in Amsterdam, Netherlands have been discovered amongst individuals on two flights from South Africa on Friday, November 26. This was additionally the case for the instances recognized in each Denmark and Australia, which have been recognized in vacationers who had arrived from South Africa.

How nations world wide have responded

One of many first nations to reply to the emergence of the Omicron variant has been Israel, which introduced late on November 27, 2021, that upon authorities approval, all foreigners could be banned from coming into the nation for a minimum of 14 days. Moreover, Israel plans to reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking applied sciences to help the federal government in halting the unfold of this variant.

Equally, the British authorities just lately introduced that they’d additionally implement sure measures to include the unfold of the Omicron variant. These measures will embody stricter testing insurance policies for foreigners arriving in Britain, in addition to requiring mask-wearing in sure settings.

The US additionally introduced that they’d droop the entry of foreigners into america who’re touring from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. As well as, the European Union has additionally agreed to introduce related momentary restrictions on all journey from southern African nations in an effort to forestall the entry of the Omicron variant into this continent.

Regardless of the intention behind these journey restrictions, a number of notable public well being officers have criticized these measures, citing that the Omicron variant has already been detected in three completely different continents.

Conclusion

Though present studies on the Omicron variant have sparked important issues relating to the power of present vaccines to guard people towards reinfection, it needs to be famous that these research are extraordinarily restricted because of the novelty of this new pressure. Due to this fact, far more analysis is required in an effort to totally perceive how the emergence of the Omicron variant will impression the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.