Identified for the first time on Wednesday November 24 in South Africa, the new variant, called “Omicron”, was subsequently detected in several countries. It appears to be more contagious than the Delta variant.
As Europe records an outbreak of Covid-19 cases, a new variant, more resistant than its predecessors, has appeared in Africa making the task of the WHO a little more complicated which was soon to be qualify as “of concern”.
Thirty-two mutations in the Spike protein
“The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO by South Africa on November 24, 2021. This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern,” said the group. experts charged by the WHO to follow the evolution of the coronavirus.
Indeed, if Omicron worries the WHO, it is because it has thirty-two mutations, insertions or deletions of the Spike protein, that is to say thirty more than the Delta variant. It also contains the N501Y mutation which has been associated “with the increase in the transmissibility of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants”, specifies Public Health France.
A VARIANT THAT IS MORE AND MORE MARKING ITS TERRITORY
Since November 24, South Africa has recorded around twenty-two positive cases linked to this new variant. On the other hand, analytical laboratories do confirm the rapid increase in cases.
Other countries have also recorded the presence of Omicron on people returning from South Africa. This is the case, for example, of Botswana and Hong Kong.
In Israel, a traveler returning from Malawi was infected with this new strain. Israeli authorities also suspect two other people of having contracted the virus. The three people, vaccinated against Covid-19, were placed in isolation.
If the new variant is currently “absent” in France, it was nevertheless identified in Belgium in a person who came from abroad.
This Saturday, November 27, a first suspected case of this new variant was also detected in Germany in a person recently returned from South Africa, the regional authorities of the State of Hesse announced on Saturday.
By late afternoon, two cases were also detected in the United Kingdom, announced the Department of Health. A little later in the day, the Italian health authorities in turn declared the detection of a case in a patient “from Mozambique”. The Czech hospital in Liberec also confirmed a case in the early evening.
The vaccine issue
So far, scientists are still uncertain whether the variant is able to escape vaccine protection, but current indications are pessimistic. The German laboratory BioNTech, manufacturer of the Pfizer vaccine, said Friday, November 26 that it could develop a vaccine in less than six weeks if the variant proves resistant.
In a statement, Moderna showed its determination to “rapidly develop a vaccine candidate for a booster dose specific to the Omicron variant”.