Scientist who helped uncover COVID-19 Omicron variant warns of its potential

Durban, South AfricaCOVID-19 researchers swimsuit up in protecting gear earlier than heading into the Africa Well being Analysis Institute’s high-security bio-hazard lab, the place they’re rising stay Omicron, which can be examined in opposition to the blood of totally immunized folks, in addition to those that had been beforehand contaminated.

“That is most likely essentially the most mutated virus we would ever seen,” stated virologist Alex Sigal, who’s main the workforce of researchers that first recognized the brand new variant.

The Omicron variant has greater than 50 mutations — with over 30 within the spike protein — enhancing the virus’ potential to contaminate the physique.

“It is extra of a Frankenstein than others,” Sigal stated. “It is at all times one thing new. I imply, the virus retains stunning us.”

Inside 36 hours of discovering the brand new variant, these scientists alerted the world. Some nations, together with the U.S., at the moment are banning journey from a number of nations in southern Africa in an try to stop the unfold.

Sigal’s workforce is collaborating with different scientists to seek out out if the variant is extra transmissible or evades immunity. The lab has obtained a number of requests for samples of Omicron, that are being packed and shipped off to different analysis institutes across the nation.

Scientists will know in about 10 days whether or not current vaccines can cease Omicron, however Sigal is assured the present vaccines will nonetheless present safety in opposition to extreme sickness and hospitalization.

However Sigal warned that so long as Africa lags behind in vaccinations, the virus will proceed to mutate. Omicron has primarily contaminated younger folks in Africa, and South African docs say these contaminated have gentle signs for essentially the most half.

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