Scientist who helped uncover Omicron variant warns of its potential: “That is in all probability probably the most mutated virus we might ever seen”

Durban, South Africa — COVID 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 reside Omicron, which might be examined in opposition to the blood of totally immunized individuals, in addition to those that had been beforehand contaminated.  

“That is in all probability probably the most mutated virus we might ever seen,” mentioned virologist Alex Sigal, who’s main the crew 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 mentioned. “It is at all times one thing new. I imply, the virus retains shocking us.” 

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

Sigal’s crew 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 individuals in Africa, and South African docs say these contaminated have gentle signs for probably the most half. 

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