WHO: SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 a ‘Variant of Concern’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) designated SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1529 as a ‘variant of concern’.

Key Points

  • This variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been named as Omicron.
  • This variant was first detected in Botswana region of South Africa on November 24.
  • South Africa is witnessing sharp increase in covid-19 infection, coinciding with the detection of Omicron variant.
  • First known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.

Who monitors the evolution of virus?

The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) periodically monitors and evaluated the evolution of Covid-19 virus. TAG-VE is an independent group of experts.

About Omicron Variant

  • The newly detected variant has large number of mutations. Some of the mutations are concerning.
  • Preliminary evidence shows that, there is an increased risk of reinfection with the detection of this variant, as compared to other Variants of concerns.
  • This variant can be detected using SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics, as of now.
  • It has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” that is, 32 in the spike protein alone.
  • This variant is characterised by 30 amino acid changes, 3 small deletions and 1 small insertion in the spike protein as compared to original virus. Out of 30, 15 are located in the receptor binding domain.

Travel Ban imposed

Amid rising concerns over new variant in South Africa, European Union, Canada, US, Saudi Arabia have imposed travel ban and have suspended flights from South Africa.

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