A mutation refers to a change in a virus’s genome (genetic code). For the sars-cov-2 family of viruses, it is a change in the virus’s RNA code that results in the different variants we have heard about and many have been infected with.
Why are the Mutations in the New Variant a Cause of Concern?
With the sudden surge in the number of new cases in Europe followed by the emergence of the new variant, Omicron; there is a rising concern about when the pandemic is going to end and for how long do people have to live in fear with COVID-19.
The new variant, Omicron, is the first variant of concern that was added to the list by the World Health Organization based on the presence of several mutations, including the mutations with the spike protein. And due to its heavily mutated spike protein, it is believed that the new variant likely has increased transmissibility, causes more severe infection, and may be more difficult to diagnose and/or treat.
However, since there is limited information, one cannot predict how the new variant will behave in the future. And until we figure out more about the spike protein of Omicron, it is best to get complete immunization and booster doses if you are eligible. Moreover, with the holiday season right around the corner, don’t forget to take care of the COVID-19 safety protocols and keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy.
As the world was struggling with the pandemic in early 2020, several evolutionary biologists predict that the SARS-CoV-2 is there to stay like several other coronaviruses that cause mild cold and flu and have been circulating in humans for decades.
The rapid increase in cases of Omicron in South Africa suggests that the new variant may have the edge over the previous variants, including the Delta variant. And the spread of the new variant may be largely related to its enhanced ability to infect people who have been previously infected by the coronavirus or have received immunization.
While what we know about Omicron is still blurry, and it will take some time before we learn more about its properties, it is critical to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols. This includes getting booster shots if you are eligible in order to stay safe and protect against the new coronavirus variant as well as washing your hands frequently.
Mutations are a change in the RNA or DNA sequence of a cell. When the number of mutations reaches a certain level, the virus is designated as a new ‘species’ of the virus and is labeled as a new variant. In this case, it is the Omicron variant that is the latest strain discovered. The spike protein in this variant (as well as all variants) is where the mutations reside. The more the mutations, the more concern there is over how well the antibodies can block the protein’s S1 subunit’s ability to attach to the healthy cells.