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How severe is the disease caused by the omicron variable?

(CNN Español) – Scientists are studying whether the variable omicron The novel coronavirus causes more or less severe disease than its predecessors. In this episode, Dr. Elmer Huerta explains how the results of these studies could dictate the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can listen to this episode on Spotify or your favorite podcast platform, or read the text below.

Hi, I’m Dr. Elmer Huerta and this is your dose of information about the novel coronavirus. Information that we hope will be useful to take care of your health and the health of your family. Today we will see what is known about The ferocity of the new omicron variantand how this feature could determine the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

let’s remember, As we heard it on the November 29 episode, that when defining a new variable, it is very important to know three characteristics of its behaviour.

  1. more contagious than the previous variant; In the case of omicron, the extent of infection detected more than the delta variant.
  2. Find out the severity of the disease it causes, that is, its severity.
  3. How effective it is at avoiding antibodies that are produced in response to a natural disease or vaccine.

The combination of these characteristics can be compared to a kind of puzzle, as these three parts are arranged to determine the impact of the new form of the virus on the epidemic.

What is the transmission range of an alternate omicron?

Regarding Omicron’s infection, as well as anecdotal evidence that it is highly contagious, during the first week of December study Written by Japanese scientist Hiroshi Nishiura, professor of health and environmental sciences at Kyoto University and advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Health.

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After analyzing the genomes of omicron samples from Gauteng province, South Africa, available through November 26, the study concluded that this variant – in its initial stage – is 4.2 times more transmissible than Delta.

But doubts remain about the virulence or type of disease Omicron causes. In other words, if the Covid-19 virus that caused the emergence of the new variant is milder, severe or the same as the previous variants, especially delta.

Does this variant cause severe or mild COVID-19?

Recognized data From Gauteng Province, South AfricaAnd they say:

  • Most cases are mild
  • Nearly 80% of patients hospitalized with omicron-induced COVID-19 do not need oxygen
  • The vast majority have been hospitalized for reasons unrelated to covid-19

Obviously, this encouraging data should be interpreted with extreme caution as it is still very early days. It does not represent what would happen in other countries, in different populations.

Let’s remember that South Africans are young people. This is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of HIV infection. The possible interaction between this virus and omicron is unknown.

In this regard, the December 2 pre-published by scholars from reference, a data management company based in the United States, India, and Canada, has caused a stir in the scientific community and in the tabloid press.

The new amino acid that produced an omicron

After analyzing the genomes of 121 omicron variant samples, extracted from the GDI database (GISAID, for its English acronym), scientists found that the spike protein of the omicron variant contains 26 mutant amino acids, of which 23 are substitutions or substitutions, two are deletions or absences, and one is an insertion, that is, an amino acid addition.

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The central point of their study is that while replacement and absence mutations appear in different arrangements in earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants, a single insertion mutation, that is, a new amino acid assembly, was not observed. In previous variants of the novel coronavirus.

And herein lies the mystery, where did that genetic piece acquired by the new omicron variant come from? I mean, where did you get it from and why?

The authors postulate a hypothesis that has raised some controversy.

The genetically modified piece of this variant

According to his idea, this mutated genetic piece could have been obtained when a person, perhaps someone with a weak defense system (someone with HIV, for example) was infected with two viruses:

  • One of them is SARS-CoV-2
  • The other, one of the four other cold-causing coronaviruses, is called HCov-229E.

Under these conditions, the scientists hypothesized that the two viruses might exchange genetic material inside an infected cell. This made it possible to insert a part of the cold virus into the genome of SARS-CoV-2, forming an omicron variant.

Inserting the gene for the cold virus would give the omicron variant – scientists speculate – the possibility of being less virulent, that is, causing less serious disease.

That’s because – and it’s still just speculation – because the human defense system will be able to recognize that cold acquired part of the genome and not react with the severity it normally does against other variants of the virus.

Scientists continue to study the alternative

Diverse experts Cited by CNN They state that it is too early to accept this tempting hypothesis, and that studies of patients in other countries should be awaited until we can draw more definitive conclusions.

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It is very important to know what type of disease is causing the new omicron variant. If it is found to cause mild infection, it may be thought that – although it is more contagious and circumvents the antibodies produced in natural infections and vaccines – the disease has reached endemicity.

This is the stage at which COVID-19 will become a health problem that does not cause epidemics for thousands of critically ill patients in a short period of time at the same time that we have seen in previous waves.

On the other hand, if Omicron is found to cause the same type of disease as the previous variants, and because it is more contagious, we must be vigilant for very high numbers of infections, which could make health services collapse again.

We will continue to inform…

Do you have questions about COVID-19?

Send me your questions on Twitter, and we’ll try to answer them in our next episodes. You can find me at Tweet embed.

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