How much do we know about Omicron?
Time: Jan 20, 2022

On November 26, the World Health Organization listed the SARS-CoV-2 variant strain B.1.1.529 as a variant strain that "requires attention" and named it after the Greek letter "Omicron" (Ο). One month later, the Omicron strain has spread to more than 100 countries and regions around the world. How much do people know about it? Is it more ferocious than the Delta strain? Will it invalidate the existing SARS-CoV-2 vaccine?

The Omicron strain initially attracted attention mainly because it carried a large number of genetic mutations, with about 30 mutations in its surface spike protein alone, and SARS-CoV-2 is through the spike protein to interact with humans. Cell receptors bind to infect the human body. Studies suggest that some mutations may enhance the virus's ability to infectivity and immune evasion.

According to WHO data, as of December 22, the Omicron strain had spread to 110 countries and regions around the world. In the United Kingdom, the United States and other places, this strain has replaced the Delta strain as the main local epidemic strain. As the relevant data increases, people's understanding of the Ormicron strain is also deepening.

Available evidence shows that the Omicron strain spreads significantly faster than the Delta strain in countries with documented community transmission, with a doubling time of 2 to 3 days for the number of infections. However, WHO experts said that it is not yet clear whether the rapid increase in cases of infection with the Omicron strain observed since November is caused by the increased infectivity of the virus or the increased ability of immune evasion, and it is likely both.

Early data from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark suggest that people infected with the Omicron strain have a lower risk of hospitalisation compared with the Delta strain. However, the risk of hospitalization is only one aspect that reflects the severity of the disease, which may change depending on the level of the "threshold" for admission. Therefore, more data from different countries, such as oxygen and ventilator use, mortality, etc., are needed to understand the severity of the disease caused by this strain. The lower risk of hospitalization observed so far may also be related to the fact that some people have acquired immunity through the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine or infection.

Are existing coronavirus vaccines still effective? Can people who have been infected with other strains of the SARS-CoV-2 still get the Ormicron strain? Regarding these issues of general concern, the WHO released a report on December 23 that several preliminary research results showed that some people who have been vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 or infected with other strains of the SARS-CoV-2 have antibodies against the The immune effect of the Mikron strain has decreased, and many countries have recently reported an increase in the number of secondary infections of the new crown. However, data on the effectiveness of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in preventing infection with the Omicron strain are still limited, and peer-reviewed research evidence has not yet emerged.

Regarding whether the Ormicron strain affects the existing SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis and treatment methods, the WHO said that at present, the strain does not affect the accuracy of the currently commonly used nucleic acid tests and rapid antigen tests. Corticosteroids and interleukin-6 receptor antagonists are expected to remain effective in the treatment of severe SARS-CoV-2. Preliminary research data shows that the neutralizing ability of some monoclonal antibody drugs has declined for the Omicron strain, and related research needs to be further carried out.

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