The Omicron variant could lead the way to the end of the pandemic or become a bigger problem. Here we tell you more about it.
Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, the world is still waiting for a new variant of COVID-19 originating in South Africa, known by the name of Ómicron. Photo: Adobe Stock
LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar
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Leer en español: Variante Ómicron: ¿El fin de la pandemia?
Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, the world is still waiting for a new variant of COVID-19 originated in South Africa, known by the name of Omicron, which, for a couple of weeks, has been a trend in the media for being classified as a worrying variant by the WHO.
Ómicron ha sido clasificada como variante de preocupación del SARS-CoV-2.— OPS/OMS (@opsoms) December 3, 2021
Se están realizando investigaciones y análisis de laboratorio para entender el impacto de Ómicron en la salud pública.
No bajes la guardia. Sigue todas las precauciones. #VariantesCOVID19 pic.twitter.com/jLDPXzfElk
However, very little is known about Omicron as it is a variant under study and it has not yet been determined if it represents a risk to the advances in vaccination or if an exaggerated fear is being created around this mutation. According to the World Health Organization, Omicron would be the fifth variant of the coronavirus after Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.
Read also: Infographic: ABC Of The Omicron Variant
Although for the scientific community it is somewhat disturbing, the truth is that from this new change in the virus there are two possibilities: it could be great news for humanity due to its mild symptoms and low risk or it could be a catastrophic event if confirmed which is extremely dangerous.
How did Omicron originate?
This variant, which originated in South Africa, was classified as worrisome by the WHO on November 26. Likewise, scientists who closely monitor the transmissibility, severity of the disease and the efficacy of vaccines, are about to offer conclusive data on their appearance and behavior in humans.
On the other hand, it seems to be very evident that Omicron did not arise from previous variants such as Alpha or Delta, but that it could have evolved in parallel with these two since its genome is different from the rest of the changes that Sars-CoV-2 has had.
So, there are three hypotheses for its appearance:
1. The virus circulated in a population with poor viral surveillance and without sequencing.
2. It originated in an immunosuppressed patient who was unable to eliminate the virus.
3. The virus hid in an animal species and made a jump to humans again. This is known as Reverse Zoonosis.
"The emergence of Omicron highlights the need to scale up equitable access to:— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) December 6, 2021
-testing & sequencing
And yet the @ACTAccelerator is currently out of cash, especially to buy tests, oxygen, personal protective equipment & to fund vaccine delivery"-@DrTedros
Advantage or disadvantage for the pandemic?
To know with certainty the true implications of Ómicron on the human immune system, it takes several weeks until enough information is obtained to determine how dangerous this variable can be.
However, this situation can also be encouraging if the new mutation is confirmed to be more contagious, but with mild symptoms; especially at Christmas time. So far, the Omicron cases have turned out to be less serious, according to information given by doctors from South Africa and Israel.
While in the more than 60 cases reported in the European Union there have been no deaths or patients with serious pathologies. This suggests that the new variant has a milder behavior than Delta. Now, if Omicron were to spread more than Delta, it would be a great advantage for humanity, because when two mutations circulate at the same time and one is more contagious than the other, but with less severe symptoms, it will tend to dominate creating a chain transmission with less lethality; opening up the possibilities of ending the pandemic.
For Samuel Scarpino, from the Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute: “Delta is the ideal variant. It is transmittable enough to dominate more dangerous variants, and its virulence can be controlled through vaccination."
That is why it is important to wait for the evolution of the cases that are being seen around the world with Omicron and see if it opens the path that everyone is waiting for or if the world is approaching a greater problem with COVID-19.