Omicron: Introduction, Scientist vs Omicron and Vaccines for omicron
What is Omicron Variant?
Omicron is one of the variants of SARs Covid-2 variants which was first reported in Botswana and South Africa. Omicron is the (B.1.1.529 variant, fifteenth letter of Greek alphabets) means is a “variant of concern” as reported by WHO on 26th November 2021, because of its ability to mutate and replicate.
Biologically, it was the most expected variant after the Delta, Lamda variants but depending upon its scarcity it was not assumed that the person affected by this variant is potentially at higher risk than the persons affected by the previous versions due to its ability to reinfect the already infected person in another altered form.
Should we have a concern about it?
Yes, as this variant is extremely mutating can increase its affinity to bind more easily to our cells and increase its resistance against vaccines, transmissibility, and the ability to suppress our immune system.
However, Omicron’s discovery has had an increasing impact across the globe, with several countries banning flights to reduce the transmissibility of the virus. As the last variant, Delta can infect only 1- 3 persons (spreading rate per person) but this Omicron can infect 1-10 people and reinfect them due to its mutating ability. Still much not known about Omicron, the variant is under consideration.
As Omicron is Dominant in South Africa, scientists reported a sudden, rise in the graph of coronavirus cases in the last month in people who had already been infected. The journal presenting these details also wrote that there was no such upswing when the Beta and Delta variants emerged although Omicron might be less vulnerable to the body’s immune defenses. There are signs of omicron which causes only mild symptoms to appear. But as cases reported from South Africa it may cause mild to severe illness too.
But on the other hand, the reports generated by researchers affirm that this virus spread twice as quickly as Delta, considering it the most contagious and epidemic form of the virus. Thus, Omicron may be mild to severe depending upon the person-to-person immune responses.
Scientist vs Omicron
As reported, replication of coronavirus took inside the human body (virus uses the host machinery to replicate), thus mutations occur more rapidly. Most of the time due to the constantly mutating nature of the virus, the pathogen found several ways how to dodge the immune system of the human body.
If we talk about the main target of antibodies in the human defense mechanism then the spike protein has been considered to be the most mutating part of the virus which has got its resistance against the human immune system.
Researchers In South Africa is concerned with the 34 mutations constantly occurring in the spike protein and thought it to be the most alarming condition for the globe around, due to which the pathogen gains its entry into the human body by binding to the cells.
Last month with Regeneron’s announcement, it was known that the mutations occurring in the spike protein have greatly reduced the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies which are present in the human immune system. As previous variants were contagious but did not seem to pose a threat like Omicron, but again still much information is not known about omicron and its transmission ability.
Vaccines for omicron
The mutations that scientists identified in Omicron raised concerns that vaccine-produced immunity or antibodies might fail to stop it from invading cells, limit its outspread. The early evidence from South Africa suggesting that people who were previously infected were getting infected again with Omicron also suggested that the new variant had developed the resistance against immunity.
This led to the number of research scientists to study the mutations and the cause of reinfection in the human body and how the antibodies are not as effective to prevent reinfection.
These experiments imply that two doses (the vaccine along with the booster) of vaccine will not provide much protection against infection.
However, by researches, many experts come to a point that the immunity generated by these vaccines is not for mutated Omicron, for this required particular antibodies generated by T cells.
The early studies also showed that boosters (second doses of vaccines) can restore protective levels of antibodies to generate immunity against the virus, although it’s not clear how long they will remain high to prevent the attack of the virus. People who get an initial vaccination after a Covid-19 infection also have a potent level of antibodies produced in response to the virus, to protect a person.
It will take weeks for scientists to gather enough information about Omicron variant infections to determine how effective primary vaccinations and boosters are against this variant. They will also be able to see just how many Omicron infections lead to severe disease in fully vaccinated people.
Doctors and scientists are preferably recommending people to get boosters and follow precautionary measures like wearing masks, washing hands, using sanitizers, and avoiding the spaces that are crowded or poorly ventilated.
The companies like Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson, approved to use of vaccines in the United States, while AstraZeneca, mostly used in Europe and other countries, said that Omicron is under study, and they affirm that they are working on formulations to tackle the Omicron transmission ability.
Fully vaccinated People with boaster, why should care about Omicron variant?
Like the Delta variant, which was the first identified variant in India, so as Omicron is another mutated, lethal, worrisome variant that is developing and posing a threatening condition around the globe.
The vaccines were made in developed countries, while the nations under development are still struggling to obtain them, due to the lack of vaccines the SARS CoV-2 found more opportunities to replicate and mutate and infect the unvaccinated people. Thus, more mutations lead to more immune-resistant spike protein.
In concern with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, Omicron due to mutating ability is likely to remain for very long but might be possible we counter it to propagate.
Public health, the economic devastation is at risk from the new variant as it hit affluent countries more severely the third world countries.
Academic studies after going through a survey showed that there were trillions of dollars of economic loss yearly to rich countries if large masses remained unvaccinated in third world countries.
As said by; head of WHO, the only way to restrict omicron is to follow preventive measures and to limit crowded areas.
If we want to stop the pandemic and reduce its transmission ability is just to limit contact!
Reference and Sources
- Immunoglobulin: Introduction, Structure and function
- Mutations: Introduction, Types, Causes and Repair Mechanisms
- Amino acids: physical, chemical properties and peptide bond
- Methods for Laboratory diagnosis of viral infections
- Immunoglobulin Classes: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE
- Dodder: Introduction, Development of Disease, Symptoms and Control
- Viruses Arise from Genetic Recombination and Mutation