23 days after discovering the Omicron variant, what do we know?

The variant Omicron (B.1.1.529) of Covid-19 was detected for the first time in South Africa On the 9th of november. Carol Perelman, chemist, science communicator and member of the Somedicyt, explains that the authorities were very quick to warn the world about the concern of this variant because it accumulated more mutations than the other variants that we already knew, it is also a variant that is it completely leaves the viral family tree and makes an evolutionary leap.

Omicron It is also already present in Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium. In Mexico and other countries on the continent, it is already being sought intentionally, Canada and Brazil have already reported two cases each.

Based on the available evidence, some specialists think that this virus could be gestated in a country with low viral detection or in an immunocompromised patient. What worried the scientists was that the mutations it has, are shared nine times with variants that we already know, such as alpha, beta and gamma, which are of concern, either because they are mutations that evade immunity or because they confer greater transmissibility, which makes it a much more contagious virus.

This virus has 50 mutations in general and more than 30 in the spike (S) protein, while others have between 11 and 13 mutations, “it must be remembered that they are the spicules that make the coronavirus appear to have a corona and these proteins are what allow infection ”.

Perelman adds that we still do not know if this causes a more severe disease or not, nor if it is capable of evading immunity and if it is transmissible or not, although on this last point there are advances because in Gauteng, one of the provinces of South Africa, there was a significant increase in cases and this is where the variant was detected in 77 people. This drew attention because it displaced the delta variant, which is already much more contagious than the original virus and now predominant, in Mexico it is registered in 99% of cases.

So a variant that could displace delta would be more contagious than this. It could represent 500% more contagion, “for this reason it is important to take measures and lower our exposure as long as we understand whether or not it is more severe,” says the specialist.

Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province, revealed that so far they have been very mild cases, in which patients show flu-like symptoms, dry cough, fever, night sweats and body aches. He added that most have been cared for at home. However, Perelman recommends caution in identifying symptoms in people, for example, with a higher risk of complications from Covid-19. That is why many countries have closed their borders and limited travel, “with this we gain time to have tools and make better decisions,” he points out.

It is important to mention that in South Africa Only 5.7% of the population is vaccinated, while in the world the average is 54%. This low vaccination, coupled with the number of cases and low monitoring, encourages the generation of variants, says Perelman.

Perelman concludes that although Ómicron is not necessarily close to us, unfortunately the pandemic has not ended. respond by what asks to continue with measures such as wearing a mask, good ventilation, no crowds and constant testing, to minimize the risk.

Will the variant arrive in Mexico?

Dr. Mauricio Rodríguez, spokesman for the UNAM’s University Commission for the Attention of the Coronavirus Emergency, says that it is “practically impossible” to stop the appearance of Ómicron in Mexico because “it can arrive from anywhere and we cannot know where it will enter” .

We must “remember that the variants enter Mexico a few weeks late. It is bad news that a new variant appears and that it can be dangerous. The good news is that the Omicron, Delta, Alpha, Gamma variants and the parent virus are all prevented in the same way. “

He said that “it is premature to know what will happen to the Omicron variant, but the appearance of new variants is a phenomenon that we will continue to see in a cyclical way: some of those that are generated will become the most successful variant and in that way it will cause waves epidemic. We have to continue with what we are already doing, and continuing to take care of ourselves is essential ”.

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