Omicron being called a 'mild disease' is 'incorrect' says Whitty
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Researchers are still grappling to come to terms with the heavily mutated Omicron variant of COVID-19, but new reports confirm the novel IHU strain may carry more mutations than its predecessor. Thankfully, the World Health Organisation’s stance towards the variant has been relatively nonchalant, so governments around the globe are following suit and downplaying its emergence. Anecdotal reports to date detail respiratory symptoms among the first cases of the new variant.
The variant, which is believed to have originated in Cameroon, Western Africa, has recently infected 12 people in France, according to recent reports.
But it has been on scientists’ radar since November, when the first sequenced case of B.1.640.2 was uploaded from Paris to a global variant database called Gisaid, according to The Independent.
Researchers have expressed meagre concern because the variant is failing to take off in the same fashion as the transmissible Omicron variant, despite predating it.
In fact, Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College reassured the strain was “not one worth worrying about too much.”
He wrote on Twitter: “This virus has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialised.”
A paper published in the medical journal MedRxiv was the first to report on the variant.
Authors explained the strain was named variant IHU, after a team of researchers from the Méditerrannée Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU).
The first individual to test positive for the strain – known as the ‘index case’ – was vaccinated against Covid and had returned from Cameroon three days before his positive result.
The authors of the paper explained: “He was vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 and returned from travel to Cameroon three days before.
“He developed mild respiratory symptoms the day before diagnosis.”
Respiratory symptoms recorded with previous strains have generally included a dry cough and shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
But the documentation on the novel strain remains limited to date, so further research is needed to establish a complete symptom profile.
Mutations of the virus are threatening because they allow new forms of the virus to bind to human cells, and allow viruses to thrive.
The novel variant, scientifically recognised as B.1.640.2 looks problematic because it comprises a total of 46 mutations in its spike protein.
But researchers are reluctant to rush to conclusions about the viruses’ danger.
The Omicron variant, which counted 35 mutations on its spike protein, poses a greater threat due to its unprecedented capacity for transmission.
Spike protein refers to the studs that surface the virus and allow it to bind to other human cells.
This cellular invasion is what renders mutations of the coronavirus dangerous because it increases transmissibility by making the virus more resistant to change.
Official figures released on December 29th confirmed more than 90 percent of coronavirus cases in England were Omicron.
The UK Health Security Agency said the figure confirmed the variant is now officially the dominant strain in the UK.
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