WHO qualifies 'worrying' the omicron variant: is it as fierce as they paint it?

The rapid reaction of countries contrasts with how little it is known from this new version of the coronavirus and the cases described, just over 30 all from an

WHO qualifies 'worrying' the omicron variant: is it as fierce as they paint it?

The rapid reaction of countries contrasts with how little it is known from this new version of the coronavirus and the cases described, just over 30 all from an outbreak in South Africa, although a patient not vaccinated in Belgium has already been described.

The World Health Organization (WHO) hurried to meet this new threat, omicron, and has qualified a variant of concern because it could lead to a "higher risk of reinfection", according to the first preliminary scientific evidence.

From the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Andrea Ammon, explains in a statement that "there is still considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine efficiency, the risk of reinfections and other properties of this variant ". While he has insisted that "it is imperative that we close the immunization gap. Reinforcement doses should be considered for all adult, giving priority to people over 40 years of age. Finally, due to the uncertainties involved in this situation, The timely reinforced implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions is now more important than ever. "

Is there being an overreaction of European countries or there are clear concern reasons? The former WHO advisor and specialist in infectious diseases, Vicente Soriano, clarifies for this newspaper than the uniqueness of this new variant, which can be described as a strain, lies in the numerous mutations found in the protein of the virus spoth: "It seems which has appeared a variant that is very different from the variants recorded so far and, in addition, has appeared as a blow, which may indicate that there is an active animal reservoir, which we do not know ".

That idea of "non-human reservoir" is sustained, according to Soriano in which "there has not been a traceability, a natural evolution of the coronavirus that has taken us to this variant, which is a leap."

The necessary research to know the impact of this new version of the virus should focus on two aspects, as Soriano says. On the one hand, in order to know if there is a non-human virus reservoir that has generated this variant so different and, on the other hand, if the previous immunity obtained through the vaccine or for having passed the disease is effective before the NU variant.

Could the vaccine not be effective in front of the new version of SARS-COV-2? The former WHO advisor is prudent in the response of him, but recalls that vaccines develop against a virus and it is possible that mutations, changes in that virus, make them less effective. "At this time, we must continue to sequence and collect information from the variant and, yes, it could be concluded that the authorized vaccines so far were less effective," because we always talk about coverage degrees.

Fellery Fernando González is shown, from the Mixed Unit infection and public health of the Foundation for the promotion of the Health and Biomedical Research of the Valencian Community (FISABIO) and the University of Valencia. "It would be precipitated, with the data we have today, to say that vaccines do not serve. In the future, with more information, this situation may be different, but a priori we must say that vaccines are effective. If the percentage of effectiveness was At the beginning of 95% and then drops to 90%, they are still effective. If it dropped, even, at least, they would also remain effective. "

The researcher of Fisabio stands out that "at the moment we are facing a variant in surveillance," the WHO has rated. "We must bear in mind that the cases found so far are linked to a concrete outbreak in South Africa and, in addition, the number of total cases is not relevant to call it for concern, although we must keep an alert to changes, "he says.

About what we already know about this new variant responds Iñaki Comas, a researcher at the Biomedicine Institute of Valencia of the CSIC. "The mutations showing B.1.1.529 had been seen in other variants, but not all together in it". He explains that "some of these variants are believed to be associated with greater transmissibility, others to a reduction in the effectiveness of antibodies ...". However, according to commas "the important are not individual mutations, but what they are doing when they are in combination. This is a new combination so, at the moment, we simply stay when they have that potential and we will have to do that if I really know Corrobora or not. "

In addition to that greater number of mutations, another sign of alarm that points out the scientist of the CSIC is that "it is growing at a great speed", although it remembers that "this has happened with others, for example, with the beta variant, which then only He had a local effect and did not open a long way outside. "

Therefore, for the researcher "we must follow the trajectory in South Africa and see if it is replicated in other countries where it has entered. There is a great epidemiological heterogeneity right now, very vaccinated countries, with a growing wave, decreasing wave. In that sense, if he enters and displaces the delta variant in all those situations - an analogy to what Delta did with Alpha a few months ago - would indicate that it is effectively substantially more than transmissible. " In parallel, commas insists that "it should be already measuring the impact on antibodies in the laboratory to know if they represent a risk or not for vaccines."

However, although there are doubts about the true severity of the omicron variant, the experts highlight the situation of sixth wave in which several European countries are immersed and "we know that the variants aggravate the existing waves," says Comas.

In this context, the closure of airspace and other virus containment measures have a clear sense: "If the variant enters a country in a context of restrictions, it may end up imposing, but it would be avointed from aggravating the waves. This must be added everything related to the total or partial immunity that the population has. Both for it and for other variants, which works is a combination of protection measures: vaccination, masks, distance, ventilation. This winter was our "test of fire "since the cold (closed spaces) was combined, the delta variant and a certain loss of effectiveness of vaccines. We will see if this variant is added to equation or not."

With this more than apparent new setback that omicron has brought, the researchers return to show that "the pandemic can be controlled locally at a concrete moment, but that control will always be in danger if we do not control it globally."

The fear of the CSIC researcher is that "the lack of vision of developed countries, where by citizen have been accumulated in the warehouses up to four or five doses, we can end up paying." In other words, in words of González: "Vaccination should be global. And this is the example that we can not forget that all countries should have access to it, because, otherwise, we leave the virus spaces to act ".

It also coincides with this idea Joan Caylá, a member of the Spanish Epidemiology Society: "We are giving many opportunities to the virus to multiply. In South Africa HIV and tuberculosis are other important infections and are interacting with SARS-COV-2".

Date Of Update: 26 November 2021, 20:30

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