The Omicron variant that causes Covid-19 probably comprises a mutation taken from the genetic materials of one other virus (most likely the virus that causes the widespread chilly). This gene sequence didn’t seem in any earlier model of SARS-CoV-2 however is widespread in lots of different viruses. By inserting this genetic code, Omicron disguises itself as “extra human” and it evades the assault of the immune system, in accordance with US scientist Venky Soundararajan.
This implies the virus is extra simply transmitted however causes solely gentle sickness or no signs. Scientists nonetheless do not know if Omicron is extra infectious than different variants, causes extra extreme illness, or overtakes Delta as the commonest variant. It might take a number of weeks to reply this query.
In response to earlier research, cells within the lungs and digestive system can concurrently harbor SARS-CoV-2 and the widespread chilly coronavirus. It’s such co-infection that enables the virus to recombine. That is the method by which two totally different viruses keep in the identical host cell. They work together by making copies of themselves and creating new copies which have genetic materials from their “mother and father”.
Within the examine, Soundararajan and colleagues present that this new mutation can first happen in an individual contaminated with each pathogens and a model of SARS-CoV-2 that has picked up the genetic sequence of the opposite virus. This identical genetic sequence seems repeatedly in one of many human cold-causing coronaviruses (named HCoV-229E) and within the HIV virus.
South Africa, the place Omicron was first found, has the very best HIV prevalence on this planet. Sufferers with weakened immune programs are at increased danger of contracting the widespread chilly virus or different pathogens. On this area, there are lots of folks the place recombination provides this widespread genome to Omicron, Mr. Soundararajan mentioned. “We may have missed many generations of recombination” that occurred over time and that led to the emergence of Omicrons.
Scientists want extra analysis to verify the origin of Omicron mutations and their impact on perform and transmissibility. These new findings spotlight the significance of vaccination. A weakened immune system makes it simpler so that you can catch SARS-CoV-2.
(In response to Reuters)