Just over a week after scientists in Botswana and South Africa warned of a new type of SARS-CoV-2 circulating, we still have more questions about it. The day after the alert, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern (VOC), which was renamed Ômicron.
What are the symptoms? How is it diagnosed? Are current vaccines effective against it? Researchers from around the world are rushing to detail the answers to these and many other questions, thus clarifying the true threat micron poses.
It will take a few days or weeks for some clarifications to appear. Meanwhile, GLOBO is collecting everything that science has been able to explain about the new variant, which already has six confirmed cases in Brazil.
Where was the micron variable discovered?
South Africa was the first country to report Ômicron, which issued a warning to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24.
According to the World Health Organization, analyzes first found the variant in a test sample collected on November 9. With the announcement of the new strain, other countries began sequencing the genomes of viruses found in people who tested positive for Covid-19.
In the Netherlands, for example, the traveler tested on November 19 already had a micron, which indicates that the new variant was already spreading in Europe before South Africa verified the sudden increase in cases and discovered the new strain.
What are the symptoms?
South African doctor Angelique Coetzee noticed the first sign of a difference in the new Covid-19 infection when treating patients with symptoms different from those presented by those with delta. New patients complained of fatigue, muscle aches and an itchy or itchy throat. In a few cases, they also developed a mild fever and a dry cough.
Among the most common symptoms of delta are increased pulse rate, decreased oxygen levels, and loss of smell and taste.
Micron’s symptoms are similar to those of beta, which was also first identified in South Africa.
How is the new variant diagnosed?
Identification of the new variant was only possible thanks to the virus’s genetic sequence, which indicated the mutations that made it different from other coronavirus strains. Therefore, this would be the best way to distinguish micron from other variables.
However, the It is relatively easy to distinguish micron from delta in the PCR assay. to me In contrast to Delta, Micron has a mutation that causes what is called a “S gene leak” in genetics. This means that one of the parts of the virus, which was determined by the PCR test, is not present in this variant.
Thus, tests that come with a result where only two parts, instead of three, have been identified, indicate infection with the new variant. Therefore, tests can be used as markers for this variant, which can later be confirmed by sequencing the genetic material of the virus.
Is micron more transmissible?
According to OMS, everything indicates that micron is more transferable than other variants, including delta, but this is not yet defined.
South Africa has reported an increase in positive tests for Covid-19 in areas where the variant is common. Epidemiological studies are underway to understand whether the increase in cases was caused by the new strain or by other factors.
Preliminary evidence suggests that there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Ômicron (for example, people who have already been infected with Covid-19 may be easier to re-infect with the new strain) compared to other variables of concern. However, at the moment, information is limited. More data on this will be available in the coming days and weeks, according to the World Health Organization.
What are the treatments?
According to the World Health Organization, corticosteroids (such as dexamethasone) and interleukin-6 blocking drugs (such as tocilizumab and sarilumab) are still prescribed for the treatment of severe COVID-19 caused by any variant.
Other treatments will be evaluated to see if they are still effective, given changes in parts of the virus in the micron variant.
Regeneron, which has developed a blend of monoclonal antibodies, said its drug may be less effective against the micronized variant of the coronavirus, an indication that this type of treatment may need to be updated if the new variant spreads aggressively.
But there is already a good sign. British drugmaker GSK said the antibody cocktail sotrovimab, developed in partnership with US company Vir, is effective against Ômicron.
The data is based on laboratory tests and a study with a hamster. According to the companies, testing continues to confirm results against all micron spikes. Expected results by the end of the year.
Monoclonal antibodies are indicated at the onset of symptoms, for patients at high risk of progression to severe cases. The drug is given intravenously, in a hospital setting. Similar products are offered or developed by Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca.
Do current vaccines work?
The big question that needs to be answered is exactly. It is not yet known if the vaccines are less effective against Micron, but this risk exists due to mutations in the variant. Most of it is found in the spike protein, which is the main target of currently available vaccines.
In addition, the new strain has the E484K mutation, which is also present in beta. This mutation has been shown to escape monoclonal antibodies and has the potential to escape current vaccines.
The major developers of available immunomodulators – Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson – have already begun trials to evaluate the efficacy of immunity against the variant. Results are expected in about two weeks.
They have also gone ahead and started developing new versions targeting the new breed. Pfizer said she can have a new immune system ready in about 95 days.
Johnson & Johnson said it would develop a vaccine against the alternative if needed, and Modena could submit an updated version of its immunizing agent to human clinical trials within 90 days.
How many cases are there in Brazil?
As of Saturday, six cases of the new variant have been confirmed in Brazil. they are Three are in São Paulo, two are in the Federal District and one is in Rio Grande do Sul. The injured are people who have returned from trips to countries on the African continent.
In addition to Brazil, the new variant has already been identified in 39 countries. Of these, ten have local transmission of the variant, including South Africa, Botswana, Australia and the United States.
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