A new strain of SARS-CoV-2 "Omicron": is it worth panicking

Scientists are still debating the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the epidemic of which took over the planet at the beginning of 2020. To date, there are two main theories. According to the first, animals are considered carriers of the virus, from which the coronavirus was transmitted to humans, which caused so many unpleasant events. But there are those who consider this infectious agent to be a bacteriological weapon developed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And his leak led to such consequences. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chief Republican Mac McCall presented a report in August 2021 in which he claimed to have evidence of the spread of the virus from the laboratory of this institute.

Unknown if true will be established. In any case, this will not solve anything, but if each of us knows more about this insidious disease, the situation can be changed.

During the pandemic, the inhabitants of our planet have already encountered several strains of SARS-CoV-2, because the virus is constantly mutating. In May 2020, South Africa is massively ill with the beta strain. In September 2020, "alpha" was discovered in Britain. November of the same year: Brazil faces gamma. A month earlier, the delta strain first appeared in India. And in November of this year, British scientists reported that a new type of strain, "omicron", had been discovered in South Africa and Botswana. In a very short period of time, patients infected with this particular type of coronavirus were found in Israel, Britain, Belgium, Hong Kong, Italy, Austria, Australia, as well as in several other countries. This rapid spread forced the world to respond quickly. For example, Russia already on November 28 restricted entry from several African countries. Ukraine also adopted a corresponding resolution, which took effect on December 3.

How does omicron differ from other strains

a serious evolutionary leap, passing over fifty mutations. Thirty of them affected the S-protein - the spike protein, that is, the spikes on the shell of the virus, with the help of which it penetrates and binds to the receptor in the human body. Thus, the coronavirus has become more “contact”, which, according to scientists, is easier to get infected. In addition, some vaccines are aimed directly at neutralizing precisely these spikes, so this fact is somewhat alarming.

Ten mutations occurred with the other part of the virus that came into contact after ingestion, which distinguishes it from the delta strain, which had only two mutations.

Doctors and scientists suggest: this happened due to the coronavirus entering the body with a seriously weakened immune system - presumably with HIV infection. A similar theory was put forward in several countries at once, but it has not yet received evidence. It is also believed that the strain did not come from "delta", but from "beta" - the data are being studied.

Comparison of the symptoms and course of a new coronavirus infection

The first to report the emergence of a new form of COVID-19 was the head of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelica Coetze. It was she who noticed that in the hospital of Pretoria, where she works as a general practitioner, patients aged 20 to 40 began to apply with complaints of severe fatigue that does not go away even after rest. Almost everyone, including the youngest patient of 6 years old, also had tachycardia. The patients did not have the familiar symptoms of the disease, but the PCR test confirmed COVID-19.

Doctors tried to compare the new strain with "delta" and got the following results:

Symptoms Delta Omicron
Loss of smell and taste In most cases Not detected yet
Temperature increase Often Rarely
Cough Often Not detected yet
Severe fatigue Sometimes Practically always
Shortness of breath Often with complications of pneumonia Not detected yet
Tachycardia Rarely Often
Decreased saturation Sharp drop Slight drop

If we analyze the differences between the two variants of coronavirus strains, we can see that “omicron” does not cause serious symptoms. But given that it was discovered last month, it is difficult to predict how it will behave in the future.

Will vaccination help

The vaccination program of the population is progressing intensively in most regions of the world. Some countries have almost completed it. But the emergence of a new mutated strain raises concerns about whether the drugs already developed will be effective. According to preliminary studies of the Pfizer vaccine, it is shown to have an effect on the virus, but 40 times weaker than the "delta". True, it should be noted: the experiments were carried out on only 12 volunteers, so the accuracy of the results may not be high.

But not everything is as pessimistic as it might seem at first glance. Firstly, vaccinations still work, and secondly, mRNA vaccine manufacturers are already adapting them to a new strain. They took 6 weeks for this, during which Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna will adjust the production technology of their immunological drugs. And in 100 days the delivery of the first batches will begin.

What can be done now

For almost two years of the pandemic, enough information has appeared about COVID-19: ways of transmission, possible symptoms, complications, methods of prevention. And while omicron is different from its siblings, the WHO recommendations remain the same:

  • maintain a physical distance of at least one meter;
  • avoid crowds;
  • wear a protective mask;
  • wash hands thoroughly, try not to touch eyes, nose, mouth;
  • coughing and sneezing into elbow or tissue;
  • get vaccinated.

And the most important thing is not to panic, because the appearance of “omicron” has already been called “the beginning of the end of a nightmare”, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to the fact that as a result of the mutation, the pathogenicity (damaging properties) of the new virus has decreased, as evidenced by a milder course of infection, it is likely that the lethality from the diseases caused by it will also decrease.. As a result, over time, a more invasive strain of "omicron" can displace all other strains of coronavirus from the human population, turning into a seasonal, ordinary, acute respiratory viral infection - the well-known ARVI, which suggests a more optimistic scenario.