The Omicron family of SARS-CoV-2 continues to trouble and puzzle. First is the mysterious origin. The Omicron variants emerged fully formed in Southern Africa in late November 2021, sporting many more mutations than all other variants combined. It appeared not as one but three variants, all related to a cryptic parent itself highly divergent from the strain that swept the world beginning early 2020...
All variants before the appearance of Omicron were neutralized reasonably well by antibodies from those infected or vaccinated. Not so Omicron. Initial studies showed Omicron-BA.1 is resistant to antibodies from those infected with earlier variants as well as to vaccines and many monoclonal…
Virus experts believe BA.5 is particularly adept at evading immune protections built up from prior infections and vaccines, giving it an advantage as it takes over as the major subvariant. This adds to the possibility people will contract Covid-19 repeatedly while facing the risk of developing complications like long-running and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
While it ain’t the “Centaurus” of Covid-19 attention right now, the new BA.2.75 Omicron subvariant does deserve to be closely monitored.
BA.1 and its siblings seem to be a threat mainly to those who are unvaccinated, haven’t been boosted, or haven’t been infected recently—including in countries with Zero-COVID policies.
XE is a recombinant virus—effectively a combination of genetic material from two or more different viruses—containing elements of the original omicron strain, BA.1, and the more infectious BA.2 subvariant, also known as “stealth omicron.”
The two new studies start to explain why, all of a sudden, these new variants have started to spread so quickly. The answer boils down to one key factor: Their mutations allow them to re-infect people who have already had an omicron infection. This reinfection risk may be higher for people who are not vaccinated.
Scientists have found a handful of cases of a new, hybrid variant in Europe and the United States. It’s unlikely to cause trouble, they say.
There’s yet another twist in the pandemic: The omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, now has a “subvariant” that seems to spread more quickly than any other version of the coronavirus to date.
The good news for now is that vaccines still appear to protect against it.
We know that new variants start small and multiply. They may begin almost anywhere, such as the UK, India, or South Africa, and spread globally, displacing all those that came before. The new wave may be intrinsically more lethal, as with Delta, or more contagious, as with Omicron.
In this context, I observe the Omicron family of SARS-CoV-2 variants. I call it a family as all Omicron variants stem from an as yet undiscovered parent
Admittedly, I went through all five stages of grief when I first saw a reference to “deltacron,” a coronavirus variant. Another one? I thought, immediately thinking about all the friends I’m gonna have to cancel on.
But wait and take a breath before you reach for your phone. “Deltacron,” or “deltamicron” if you like more syllables in your portmanteaus, might be appearing in the news, but so far it seems to be more bark than bite.
The Omicron variants emerged fully formed in Southern Africa in late November 2021, sporting many more mutations than all other variants combined. It appeared not as one but three variants, all related to a cryptic parent itself highly divergent from the strain that swept the world beginning early 2020.