Updated: Jan 24
Amidst a growing sense of triumphing over the COVID-19 pandemic, recent news about a new 'variant of concern' from South Africa is profoundly troubling. The World Health Organization classified the new, heavily-mutated strain as a ‘variant of concern’ last Friday (11/26/2021) and designated it the Greek name 'Omicron.'
The new variant ‘B.1.1.529’— first identified in Botswana— seems to have over 50 mutations in total. With over 30 changes to the spike protein and more than 10 mutations on the ACE2 receptor (which helps the virus to enter cells), fears are rising regarding increased transmissibility and infectivity. While many of these mutations have already been present in other variants, such as the Delta variant, this B.1.1.529 variant seems to be the “variant with the most mutations."
The US and many other countries have already restricted travel from numerous African countries since Friday. The anecdotal reports of reinfections and cases in vaccinated individuals have put the entire world in a high-alert situation.