Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is Omicron Variant?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : COVID mutation

Mains level : Not Much

A new lineage of SARS-CoV-2 has been designated as a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been named Omicron.

Behind the name: Omicron

  • The WHO has been using Greek letters to refer to the most widely prevalent coronavirus variants, which otherwise carry long scientific names.
  • It had already used 12 letters of the Greek alphabet before the newest variant emerged in South Africa this week.
  • After Mu, the 12th named after a Greek letter, WHO selected the name Omicron, instead of Nu or Xi, the two letters between Mu and Omicron.
  • The WHO said Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’ while Xi was not picked up following a convention.

Why is the Omicron variant interesting?

  • The Omicron variant is interesting due to the fact that it has a large number of mutations compared to other prevalent variants circulating across the world.
  • This includes 32 mutations in the spike protein.
  • Many of these mutations lie in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, a key part of the protein required for binding to the human receptor proteins for entry into the cell.
  • It can thus play an important role in recognition by antibodies generated due to a previous infection or by vaccines.

What do spike mutations do?

  • Many of the mutations in the spike protein have been previously suggested to cause resistance to antibodies as well as increased transmission.
  • Thus, there is a possibility that this variant could be more likely to re-infect people who have developed immunity against previous variants of the virus.
  • The behavior of the virus is not yet accurately predictable based on the evidence on individual mutations.

Does the variant result in vaccine breakthrough infections?

  • Some of the initial individuals identified to be infected with the variant have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and therefore the variant can indeed cause vaccine breakthrough infections.
  • This should not be of concern, since the prevalent variants of concern including Delta have been shown to cause breakthrough infections.
  • Whether the variant causes more breakthrough infections than Delta is not currently known.

How can we be prepared for the variant?

  • Enhanced surveillance and genome sequencing efforts are essential to detect and track the prevalence of the Omicron variant.
  • Rapid sharing of genome sequences of the virus and the epidemiological data linked with it to publicly available databases will help in developing a better understanding of the variant.
  • Existing public health and social measures need to be strengthened to control and prevent transmission.
  • Enhancing vaccination coverage across different regions along with access to testing, therapeutics and support will be essential for combating the new variant.
  • Equitable access to vaccines would be key to controlling the Omicron variant, and slowing down the emergence of any future variants.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments