The Omicron variant is a mystery. Here’s how science will solve it

The researchers have these numbers for other Covid variants, including delta, alpha, and even the original number found in Wuhan. “What’s particularly interesting about Omicron is that there are many changes related to what we’ve seen in the wild type and Delta, the core variants that we have so far,” Ferrari says. “There are so many differences that we now have to worry about how those differences interact with each other.”

The next step would be to perform the same assays, virus versus immunogen, using the same Omicron. “That takes the real virus,” Ferrari says. “We can do it relatively quickly, but it needs to be done in specialized settings – Biosafety Level 3.” This means setting up laboratories for dangerous respiratory pathogens, with air locks and everyone wearing protective gear and respirators. Ferrari says these results in anywhere from one to two weeks; Kilpatrick says they might come sooner.

The problem, of course, is that this is still just bench-based information. “What we see in the lab is much simpler than what happens in real life; it is clear that our real immune systems are much more complex,” says Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Bern. This means that we cannot fully predict, just by looking at the sequences, how much immune evasion this variant might have, or how transmissible it is. We really need to wait for more data to find out.”

To get a realistic picture of the extent of the risk posed by Omicron, it will be necessary to match any sequences with clinical data: who had the disease, how sick they were, demographics, and whether they had been infected or vaccinated prior to Omicron. I got them. “It’s really important to note that we don’t necessarily have any indication from the sequencing as to whether a variant is clinically somewhat dangerous,” Hodcroft says. “It’s also really important that the first people to have this with Omicron aren’t recognized by this too long ago. Oftentimes, the more serious the results, we don’t see them for a few weeks.”

one thing He is It is clear, however, that it is wrong to blame South Africa for the emergence of the variant. The researchers there are very good at identifying variants, and have been transparent enough to warn the world. However, Omicron’s numbers there may provide important clues for its clinical course. South Africa is a young country; 37 percent of its population under 20 year. (In the United States, for comparison, 22 percent of the population Under 19 years old.) Since young people tend to fight off Covid better, this may have skewed initial impressions of Omicron Cause mild illness. “One of the main things we need to do is monitor what is happening with the spread of the species in other populations, especially looking at how much infection there is in South Africa and what that means for hospitalization,” Lawrence says. Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick Medical School. “If we’re going to see any results about omicron’s ability to cause more serious disease or otherwise, it will be in South Africa.”

Surprisingly, HIV/AIDS is still prevalent throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with many infected people unable to access antiretroviral drugs available in the global north. This could mean disease synergy: a person whose immune system has been compromised by this disease may be sitter for the variable Develop his mutations—As it happened last year with An immunocompromised patient in the UK. “In someone with a strong immune system, the virus will only be able to evolve so much before that person’s immune system crushes reproduction,” says Anna Berstein, associate professor and co-leader of the Covid modeling team at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. immunocompromised individuals, that the virus functions abnormally.” “There is little comfort there, because the evolutionary pressure of a virus setting off in depravity within the single body of an immunocompromised person wouldn’t necessarily push them evolutionarily into something that would make them really terrible for humanity in general.”


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