Medical Technology

Fauci: Omicron ‘Very Different From Other Variants’

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Omicron COVID-19, a newly discovered variant, may be more infective than other variants and less responsive to vaccines. However, it’s too for now to compare it with the Delta variant, Anthony S. Fauci MD the most renowned infectious disease official on Tuesday, said.

Fauci who spoke at a White House COVID-19 briefing, said there’s a “very unusual array of mutations” across the COVID-19 genome, which suggests it’s different from any variant we have seen before.

“This mutational profile is different from other variants of interest and concern and even though certain mutations are also observed in Delta, this is not Delta,” Fauci said. “These mutations have been associated with increased susceptibility to transmission and immune evasion.”

Omicron is the fifth designated COVID-19 variant of concern.

Detected first in South Africa, Omicron has been found in 20 countries so far. There are no confirmed cases currently in the United States, but it has been found in Canada.

Omicron has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein — the component of the virus that binds human cells, Fauci said.

Cross-Protection from boosters

Though the mutations suggest there is increased transmission of this variant, Fauci said it’s too early to determine how this compares to the Delta variant. Fauci noted that while Omicron vaccines might not be as effective, there will likely still be some protection.

He said that vaccines, especially boosters, can protect against some serious diseases however, some immunity escape could occur.

Fauci stated, “When we say these mutations suggest an increase in protection as well as some degree of immune evasion, but we can still draw an appropriate conclusion from our experiences with Delta that you can’t eliminate all protection from that particular variant,”

Omicron has not been found to cause more severe diseases than other types of concern.

“Although some preliminary information from South Africa suggests no unusual symptoms that are associated with variant but we don’t know, and it is too early to know,” Fauci said.

He recommended that people continue to wear masks, wash hands and avoid crowds in indoor spaces. He also recommended that everyone be vaccinated and get boosters.

“One thing has become clear over the past 20 months: We can’t forecast the future however, we can be prepared for it,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, said at the briefing. “We have more tools to fight the variant than we did last year.”

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