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As Delta variant of COVID-19 is self-extinguishing, scientists look for Omicron

Delta variant, COVID-19, Omicron, Omicron variant


As Delta variant of COVID-19 is self-extinguishing, scientists look for Omicron

While Japanese scientists said that the Delta variant of Covid-19 could mutate and become self-extinguishing, which it is apparently already doing in Japan, some health experts are suggesting the Omicron COVID-19 variant is the “worst strain ever of the coronavirus, has several mutations from previous COVID-19 strains and many more that has the potential to make Omicron the most infectious and vaccine-resistant variant ever”.

The Omicron has acquired the mutations of Delta variant, which became dominant variant across the world because it was highly transmissible.

The Omicron variant also includes the vaccine-resistant alterations seen on Beta variant of COVID-19. The new variant also has a drop-out mutation that allowed the Alpha variant to wreak havoc in the UK few months ago.

According to experts, Omicron has 32 mutations on its spike protein, twice as many as Delta. It is feared that Omicron would soon spread across the world.

Everything we know about the variant so far:

What is so worrying about Omicron?

According to experts, it is the ‘worst variant they have ever seen’. The experts are worried over the number of mutations which Omicron carries. It is feared that the mutations may make COVID-19 vaccines 40 per cent less effective in a best-case scenario.

This is because so many of the changes on B.1.1.529 are on the virus’s spike protein.

What mutations does Omicron variant have?

The new COVID-19 variant has over 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein.  The new variant carries mutations P681H and N679K which are ‘rarely seen together’ and could make Omicron resistant to vaccine.

Is Omicron a variant of concern?

The World Health Organization has classified the virus as a ‘variant of concern’.

Where has the variant been detected so far?

The variant has so far been spotted in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, UK, Germany and some other countries.

In India, several states have taken steps to curb the spread of the new variant in the country. Some experts claimed that tight checks are needed to curb Omicron or else it will lead to third wave of coronavirus in the country.

Delta variant in Japan

New cases in Japan have declined sharply, the reason being the virus’s inability to reproduce after accumulating too many mutations. In fact, the wave of infections came to an abrupt halt and has almost completely subsided, with at least 16 new cases recorded in Tokyo last Friday.

According to The Japan Times, a group of researchers led by the National Institute of Genetics detected genetic changes in the Delta virus that point to an act of “self-extinction”. This is a result of too many mutations in the virus’s non-structural error-correcting protein, called nsp14, which proved difficult to repair errors in time and led to its “self-destruction”.

“The Delta variant in Japan was highly transmissible and kept out other variants, but as mutations accumulated, we believe it eventually became a defective virus and could not make copies of itself,” Professor Ituro Inoue emphasized. “Considering that cases have not increased, we believe that at some point during such mutations it headed straight for natural extinction,” the researcher emphasized, noting that “we were surprised to see the findings”.

Dr Simon Clarke, head of the Division of Biomedical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Reading, said: “It is possible that the strain will stop evolving, but only when it stops replicating, which these Japanese scientists believe has happened (…) the chains of transmission need to be broken and some mutations will make the virus unviable, they will become evolutionary dead ends. However, that will only happen in a very small subset of cases”.

“There will still be plenty of coronaviruses around that are capable of infecting people and we will do that until we have sufficient immunity or can break the chains of transmission,” he added.

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Contents published under this byline are those created by the news team of WeeklyBlitz

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