First image of omicron coronavirus variant shows many more mutations in area that interacts with human cells – .

First image of omicron coronavirus variant shows many more mutations in area that interacts with human cells – .

Researchers have revealed the first image of omicron, the novel coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa and Botswana, which shows it has more mutations than the currently predominant Delta variant.
The 3D image of omicron, produced and released by Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, reveals that the variant has many mutations concentrated in the spike protein (S) – the part of the new coronavirus that allows it to enter human cells.

“We can clearly see that the omicron variant has many more mutations than the delta variant, mostly concentrated in an area of ​​the protein that interacts with human cells,” the researchers said in a statement Sunday. “This does not automatically mean that these variations are more dangerous, just that the virus has adapted more to humans by generating another variation. “

Scientists called for additional studies to determine whether the adaptation seen in the variant is “neutral, less dangerous, or more dangerous.”

First photo of the omicron variant (B.1.1.529), a worrying variant of SARS-CoV-2

(Baby jesus)

Scientists have found around 50 mutations in the omicron, including 30 on the S protein and half of those in the receptor binding domain – the part that binds to the ACE2 receptor on human cells through which the virus enters. tissues.

Red dots in the image, the researchers said, indicate areas of “very high variability,” while orange dots are “high variability” and yellow “medium variability.” The green dots are parts of the S protein showing a small difference between the two variants, while the gray area shows parts that do not vary.

“The number of cases has tripled in 3 days in South Africa to reach 2,828, but this may be in part due to intensive surveillance, although it is possible that the transmission rate is double. that of the delta (R = 2) and that the doubling time is about 4.8 days, ”said Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London on Saturday.

“South Africa is coming into the summer and the delta rates are very low, so it’s hard to tell if the omicron is competing with the delta,” Dr Openshaw added.

The World Health Organization noted on Friday that there may be an increased risk of reinfection with the new variant of the B.1.1529 coronavirus, named omicron, compared to other variants of concern.

“The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa,” the WHO noted in a statement Friday. “In recent weeks, infections have increased sharply, coinciding with the detection of the B.1.1.529 variant. “

As the number of people testing positive has increased in parts of South Africa affected by this variant, the WHO says more studies are underway to understand whether the increase in cases is due to omicron or to other factors.

The WHO technical advisory group on virus evolution also stressed that it is still not clear whether infection with omicron causes more serious disease than infections with other variants.

“Although preliminary data suggests that there is an increase in hospitalization rates in South Africa, this may be due to the increase in the overall number of people infected, rather than a specific omicron infection. “, Noted the experts in a statement Sunday.

They urged all countries to step up surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating variants of the novel coronavirus and to submit full genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly accessible database, such as GISAID.

WHO and several health experts around the world have called for increased global equity in vaccines to ensure that worrying new variants do not emerge.

“It is very likely that the current vaccines protect against serious diseases with omicron as they do with all previously identified viral variants. But it highlights the need to remain vigilant – the pandemic is not over, ”said Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School.


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