Omicron, the new variant of the covid from South Africa: the intuition of danger




A new variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus has been identified in South Africa, scientifically named B.1.1.529. The South African Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla said that there is still too little data available according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the presence of the variant has been documented by sequencing in 22 positive cases and has been defined as a potential "serious threat”, due to the numerous mutations of the Spike protein and high transmissibility.


The scientific community has already taken steps to try to quickly complete the identikit of B.1.1.529, due to the hypothetical ability to "escape" many of the known monoclonal antibodies. The new variant came under the lens of the WHO which decided to call it Omicron, classifying it as "worrying". It is precisely the ability to evade antibodies and high transmissibility that push the EU Commission, in coordination with the member states, to interrupt flights from South Africa, as stated by Ursula von der Leyen, forbidding entry to those in the last 14 days he has been to South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini.


The Spallanzani Institute has set up a task force to analyze the data and prepare the sequencing of the strains for the purpose of virological surveillance. In Italy at the moment this variant is not present. Undersecretary for Health Sileri recommends maximum attention to European developments.


Meanwhile, in Brussels, a series of meetings have been organized to address this new threat and curb the surge in Covid. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the reference institute for infectious diseases, currently, no unusual symptoms have been reported in the positives of the new variant B.1.1.529, being monitored. However, some remain asymptomatic and this obviously represents a vehicle for transmissibility. The high contagiousness and weakening of the action of vaccines is being examined, and thanks to the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Spallanzani institute, in contact with the Italian ambassador to South Africa, Paolo Cuculi, is facilitating relations with the NICD, organizing an international call to discuss the measures to be taken.


Meanwhile, Kirill Dmitriev, Head of the Russian Fund for Direct Investments, Financier of the Sputnik V vaccine, has released a statement stating that “to deal with the new emergency, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine can be quickly modified for the new Omicron variant if it was necessary". At the moment there are not enough data available to be able to draw conclusions, in a short time: the diffusion still seems to be limited and we have no certain evidence about the elusiveness of antibodies, an intuition remains, which if confirmed, would put the antibody response in difficulty, induced by existing vaccines.


Original article published in Italian on https://www.lavocedinewyork.com/lifestyles/scienza-e-salute/2021/11/26/omicron-la-nuova-variante-del-covid-venuta-dal-sud-africa-lintuizione-del-pericolo/


Article by Dr. Antonio Giordano (Founder & Director at Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO))


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