Answers for Omicron Variants
Time: Jan 20, 2022

1. Discovery and prevalence of Omicron variants

On November 9, 2021, a novel coronavirus B.1.1.529 variant was detected for the first time from case samples in South Africa. In just 2 weeks, this variant has become the absolute dominant variant of COVID-19 infection cases in Gauteng, South Africa, with rapid growth. On November 26, WHO defined it as the fifth "variant of concern" (VOC), named after the Greek letter Omicron variant. As of November 28, South Africa, Israel, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria and Hong Kong, China, etc., have monitored the input of this variant. The Omicron variant was first discovered and reported in South Africa, but it does not mean that the virus evolved in South Africa, and the place where the variant was found is not necessarily the place of origin.

2. Possible reasons for the emergence of Omicron mutants

According to the information currently shared by the COVID-19 database GISAID, the number of mutation sites in the Omicron variant is significantly more than that of all the COVID-19 variants that have been circulating in the past two years, especially in the spike protein of the virus. It is speculated that there may be the following three reasons:

(1) After immunocompromised patients are infected with the COVID-19, they have undergone a long period of evolution in the body and accumulated a large number of mutations, which are transmitted by chance;

(2) When a certain animal group is infected with the COVID-19, the virus undergoes adaptive evolution during the transmission of the animal group, and the mutation rate is higher than that of humans, and then spills over to humans;

(3) The variant strain has been circulating for a long time in countries or regions where the monitoring of novel coronavirus genome variation is backward. Due to insufficient monitoring capabilities, the intermediate generation of its evolution has not been discovered in time.

3. Transmissibility of Ormicron Variants

At present, there is no systematic research data on the transmissibility, pathogenicity and immune evasion ability of Ormicron mutants in the world. However, the Omicron variant also has important amino acid mutation sites in the spike proteins of the first four VOC variants, Alpha (alpha), Beta (beta), Gamma (gamma) and Delta (delta), including enhanced cellular Mutation sites for somatic affinity and viral replication ability. Epidemiological and laboratory surveillance data show that the number of cases infected with the Omicron variant in South Africa has surged and partially replaced the Delta variant. The transmission capacity needs further monitoring and research.

4. The effect of Omicron variant strains on vaccines and antibody drugs

Studies have shown that K417N, E484A or N501Y mutations in the S protein of the COVID-19 indicate enhanced immune evasion; the Omicron variant also has a triple mutation of "K417N+E484A+N501Y"; There are multiple other mutations that may reduce the neutralizing activity of some mAbs. The superposition of mutations may reduce the protective efficacy of some antibody drugs against Omicron mutants, and the ability of existing vaccines to escape immunity needs further monitoring and research.

5. Does the Omicron variant have any effect on the nucleic acid detection reagents currently in use?

The genomic analysis of the Omicron variant showed that its mutation site did not affect the sensitivity and specificity of China's mainstream nucleic acid detection reagents. The mutation sites of the Omicron variant are mainly concentrated in the hypervariable region of the S protein gene. However, data from multiple laboratories in South Africa suggest that nucleic acid detection reagents that target the S gene may not be able to effectively detect the S gene of the Omicron variant.

For people who do not have the conditions for professional nucleic acid testing, home self-testing rapid test kit are still the main testing method. At present, Chinese companies have stated that existing reagents can effectively detect the mutant strain of Omicron. It can effectively guarantee the detection specificity, accuracy and sensitivity.

JINYE can provide relevant testing reagents for the needs of rapid detection and home testing of the COVID-19. Covering antibody, neutralizing antibody, and antigen detection kits, the rapid detection of samples can be completed within 15 minutes and at the same time, it has high sensitivity.

6. Measures taken by relevant countries and regions

In view of the rapid prevalence of Omicron variants in South Africa, many countries and regions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia, Israel, Taiwan and Hong Kong, have restricted the entry of travelers from southern Africa.

7. WHO's recommendations for response to Omicron variants

WHO recommends that countries strengthen the monitoring, reporting and research of the COVID-19, and take effective public health measures to block the spread of the virus; effective infection prevention measures recommended by individuals include maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter in public places, wearing masks, opening windows for ventilation, Keep your hands clean, cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, get vaccinated, etc., and avoid poorly ventilated or crowded places. Compared with other VOC variants, it is uncertain whether the Omicron variant is more transmissible, pathogenic, and immune to evasion, and preliminary results will be available in the next few weeks. But what is currently known is that all variants can cause severe illness or death, so preventing the spread of the virus is always the key, and the new crown vaccine is still effective in reducing severe illness and death.

8. In the face of the emerging Omicron, what should the public pay attention to in their daily work?

(1) Wearing a mask is still an effective way to block the spread of the virus, and it is also applicable to the Omicron variant. Even if the full course of vaccination and booster shots have been completed, it is also necessary to wear masks in indoor public places, public transportation and other places. In addition, wash your hands frequently and do good indoor ventilation.

(2) Do a good job in personal health monitoring. When there are symptoms of suspected Novel coronavirus pneumonia, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc., monitor body temperature in time and seek medical attention.

(3) Reduce non-essential entry and exit. In just a few days, many countries and regions have successively reported the import of the mutant strain of Omicron, and the global understanding of the mutant strain is still limited. Therefore, travel to high-risk areas should be minimized, and personal protection during travel should be strengthened to reduce the chance of contracting the Omicron variant.

In the context of the continued severe global epidemic, JINYE is willing to work with epidemic prevention warriors to protect health.

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