Omicron could threaten COVID-19 immunity – but we’re not going back to ‘square one’ – .

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Omicron could threaten COVID-19 immunity – but we’re not going back to ‘square one’ – .


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The omicron variant, now reported in several Canadian provinces and a growing number of countries around the world, could threaten hard-earned immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19.

But global scientists say the world has a crucial head start on the latest worrying variant, thanks to early detection. And it is hoped that this highly mutated version of the coronavirus does not bring the world back to “square one” in this pandemic.

South African scientists quickly identified and alerted the world of the variant last week, finding a disturbing number of mutations that could potentially impact vaccine effectiveness, virus transmissibility and even the severity of the disease.

Immunologists and virologists say that while it will still take time to determine the true impact of the variant, our immunity to vaccines and past infections could be seriously affected if it takes off globally.

“I wouldn’t say this one is going to reset us,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona.

“But I think if that does spread it will be a bigger problem than any of the variations we’ve seen before. “

More than 30 mutations in the spike protein

Omicron contains more than 30 mutations in the single spike protein, the part of the coronavirus that helps it enter human cells.

Bhattacharya said that while mutations in the virus are of concern, it is important to keep in mind that the immune system is “multi-layered” and that protection against vaccines and previous infections against serious illness will likely resist the new one. variant.

“I think what we’ll see is, in all likelihood, a pretty big drop in antibody function,” he said. “But once we start doing real-world studies of how things work, I guess vaccines will still do a decent job of keeping people from getting really sick. “

div>WATCH | Will our vaccines protect us against the omicron variant?

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