Omicron Variant

The Omicron is a variant of COVID-19. It was first identified in South Africa. The World Health Organisation has listed Omicron as “Variant of Concern”.

What is Omicron?

  • In November 2021, the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa (NGS – SA) identified a new variant. The variant was named Omicron. It belongs to the lineage called B.1.1.529. The Omicron is more transmissible than the earlier mutants.
  • The Omicron has multiple spike protein mutations. It is highly infectious.
  • The Omicron has unusual constellation of mutations with 30 in the region of its discovery. Some of these mutations were detected earlier in Alpha and Delta variants. Some are rarely observed and not well characterized.
  • The Omicron carries a deletion in nsp6. This is similar to deletion in Alpha, Gamma, Beta and Lambda variants.

What did WHO say about Omicron?

The WHO designated Omicron as the Variant of Concern. According to WHO, it has increased transmissibility and decreased effectiveness of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. As the variant has large number of mutations, it has huge impact on how the virus behaves.  The epidemiological and correlation of Omicron is noy fully established.

How easy is it to detect Omicron?

The Omicron has a deletion in S gene. This allows for rapid identification of the variant. The N and RdRp genes are unaffected by the mutant. Thus. the RT – PCR tests can detect them easily. The PCR tests usually detects at least two different COVID-19 targets that serve as a backup in case of mutation.

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