A new mutant strain of Covid-19 that has sparked fears for vaccine resistance, caused flight cancellations, and sent the stock market plummeting; the Omicron variant could actually help bring the pandemic to an end, a Russian virologist has claimed.
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In an interview published on Monday in Moscow tabloid KP, Anatoly Altshtein, a virologist at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which pioneered Russia’s Sputnik V jab, said that it is still not clear how deadly or infectious the new Omicron variant might be.
According to him, even if it does spread faster than its predecessor, known as Delta, it could take months to become the predominant form of the virus.
Even if that happens, he said, it’s not clear that Omicron means higher death tolls than at present. “Right now there are reasons to think that the Omicron variant could be less pathogenic,” he went on, meaning less able to cause harmful infection, reported RT.
Explaining the science behind the hypothesis, Altshtein said that “we already see Omicron has many mutations, more than Delta. More than thirty in a single gene of its spike protein. This is too many, and it means the virus has an unstable genome.
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As a rule, this sort of infectious agent becomes less dangerous, because evolutionarily, an overwhelming number of mutations leads to a weakening of the virus’s ability to cause disease.”
According to the professor, if this rule holds true, then Omicron would be fatal in only a small fraction of cases, and would become like other common seasonal infections.
He stressed that we still understand little about the new variant, discovered by South African scientists last week, and that it was best to be cautious while its characteristics are researched.
Contrary to what we’re told the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus results in only mild disease, without prominent symptoms, according to Angelique Coetzee, the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association.
“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well. So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home”, Coetzee said.
Meanwhile, according to the Botswana government Presidential (COVID-19) Task force press release, the first four Omicron cases were all fully vaccinated individuals.