Where did the ‘weird’ Omicron variant come from? The three most prevalent scenarios, according to scientists

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As the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly worldwide and its first case has now been detected in Greece, scientists around the world are wondering where this worrying strain of the coronavirus, loaded with so many mutations, came from.

According to “Science”, there are three most common scenarios so far regarding the new variant:

To have been circulating for a long time (maybe from 2020) among a population of people with little epidemiological surveillance, transmitted slowly under the “radar” of scientists, so it went unnoticed.

– To be “cooked” quietly in the body of a chronically ill immunocompromised patient, e.g. with HIV / AIDS, where he had time to accumulate mutations.

– To be hiding in an animal from where he recently “jumped” suddenly to humans.

The scientific community is convinced that Omicron did not come from any of the previous variants, such as Alpha and Delta. On the contrary, it seems to have evolved in parallel with them in the ‘dark’. It is so different from the genomes of other variants that it is very difficult to locate its closest “relative”, according to virologist Emma Hodcroft of the Swiss University of Bern. According to him, Omicron “separated from the other executives early, something that could happen in mid-2020”.

In other words, for over a year he may have been “hiding” somewhere. Leading German virologist Christian Drosten of the Charite University Hospital in Berlin considers the first scenario more likely. “Omicron did not develop in the South African country where a lot of genetic analysis is done, but elsewhere in South Africa during the winter epidemic. There have been many infections that have occurred for a long time to develop this type of virus. “really needs tremendous evolutionary pressure.”

Other scientists, such as Dr. Andrew Rambo of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, do not believe it is possible for Omicron to remain hidden from a group of people for so long. As he says, “I’m not sure there is really a place in the world isolated enough for such a virus to be transmitted for so long without being noticed in different places.”

Therefore, Rebo and others argue that Omicron may have developed in a single patient with chronic Covid-19 infection who also had a weakened / suppressed immune system due to another condition or medication, possibly someone with the HIV virus that causes it. AIDS. According to infectious disease specialist Richard Lessels of the South African University of KwaZulu-Natal, “the evidence supporting this is becoming increasingly strong.”

But Drosten believes that the experience so far with chronic infections from the flu and other viruses in immunocompromised patients does not support this hypothesis for the emergence of Omicron. As he says, indeed variants that escape immune protection occur in these people, but along with other changes that make them less likely human-to-human transmitters. “These viruses have very little real-world suitability,” Drosten said. Evolutionary biologist Jessica Metcalfe of the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study agrees.

Some other scientists prefer the third scenario: that Omicron was hiding in rodents or other animals rather than humans (one or many). As Christian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute, puts it, “the Omicron genome is so strange,” showing an unusual mix of mutations, many of which have not been found in any previous variant of the coronavirus. he argues that they occurred in a host animal.

“It’s really interesting how crazy Omicron is,” said evolutionary biologist Mike Worobey of the University of Arizona, who prefers a second-line scenario from an immunocompromised patient, but does not rule out a third.

Greek evolutionary biologist Aris Katzourakis of the University of Oxford estimates that it is too early to rule out any theory about the origin of Omicron, although he is particularly skeptical about the third animal scenario.

SOURCE: AMPE

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Source From: Capital

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