How severe is Omicron? Know what scientists across the world are saying – Times of India

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How severe is Omicron? Know what scientists across the world are saying
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Research sector is at an aggressive pace to study and understand the nature of coronavirus and its variants. It’s been more than two months since the tracing of the super spreader variant of coronavirus and much has been said about it, albeit much is left to be said.
New information is emerging everyday about this super mutating coronavirus and everyone is eager to know more about it.
Here’s a compilation of what scientists across the world are saying about this dominant variant of the coronavirus:
Omicron is rapidly replacing Delta everywhere, with faster replacement effects than ever seen before in the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on January 18.

Ever since this variant has been detected, scientists have been worried about its transmissibility rate.
On the transmissibility rate of the Omicron variant, epidemiologist and the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove says the mutations found in the virus allow it to adhere to human cells more easily. Second reason that aids the rapid transmission of the virus is immune escape, which means that people can be reinfected either if they had a previous infection or if they’ve been vaccinated.
Another important reason cited by Maria Van Kerkhove is the replication of the Omicron variant in the upper respiratory tract which was not seen in delta or any other ancestral strain. Due to its presence in the upper respiratory tract it makes it easy to spread.
“The speed with which Omicron took over was really amazing,” says Shangxin Yang, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at University of California Los Angeles. “It’s almost magical. In two weeks, it went from accounting for 1% of COVID-19 cases around the world to 50% of cases, and in one month, to almost 100% of cases. That’s amazing speed; we could never have imagined any virus could do that,” he told an international journal.
The rate of spread of this variant can be seen from the rising number of cases worldwide.
In India, a total of 2.85 lakh COVID cases were reported on January 26. The first case of Omicron was reported in India on December 2.
As told by Maria Van Kerkhove Omicron appears to show preference for infecting and replicating in the upper respiratory tract, compared to Delta and other strains which prefer the lower respiratory tract. This gives the variant a transmission advantage independent of immune evasion, says the WHO.

Scientists have said that Omicron’s genetic composition makes it more efficient to evade the antibodies produced both by natural infection and vaccination. This helps the virus to spread quickly.
“…Omicron’s hyper-transmissibility does not stem from the release of large amounts of virus from infected people. Instead, the best explanation for its lightning-fast spread is its ability to evade SARS-CoV-2 immunity caused by either vaccination or past infection,” says Emily Bruce, a virologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington in a Nature publication.
Despite being in the tight grip of the third wave, the hospitalisation trends have not been alarming.

Preliminary studies suggest that Omicron appears to have decreased ability to infect lung tissue, which may be a reason why people infected with Omicron have a less severe disease compared to Delta, says the WHO and adds that early studies from animal models show that Omicron-infected animals show fewer clinical signs and have less severe disease.
On the less severity of the variant, Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak Hospital says, “This variant spreads fast, but it also gets cleared fast from the body compared with the Delta variant.”
Vaccination and booster shots also contribute to the less hospitalisation risk in Omicron infected individuals, experts have said.
Prior infection to the virus also provides stronger immunity against Omicron than other ancestral variants.
“There is no reason to think that Omicron is the result of the virus mutating any faster,” says Jeremy Luban, the University of Massachusetts virus expert. “It’s just that we never saw this version as it was developing, wherever that was,” he told Time.

This variant of coronavirus is not deadly. Due to its super spreading characteristic, scientists expect it to remain among the human population for some years from now.
“The best scenario is for the virus to become so weakened it just becomes a vaccine itself,” Dr. Warner Greene, former director of and current senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Virology told an international journal. “It would spread but it wouldn’t cause severe disease. In that kind of setting, the virus would start to lose its foothold and become endemic in very small areas, replicating only when it finds people who are not previously infected or vaccinated.”
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