Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about “omicron” – a new strain of coronavirus

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

The new strain of coronavirus B.1.1.529, which has already received the name “omicron”, has become one of the most discussed topics of recent days. Recall that it was identified in South Africa on November 11. The first confirmed cases of infection date from November 24.

The virus has already spread to many other countries in Africa and other parts of the world. So, the first cases of infection have already been recorded in Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Germany, Great Britain. Israel has also decided to close its borders for two weeks. Entry restrictions apply in the UK as well.

At the time of the emergence of the new strain, many scientists predicted that it may be more dangerous and infectious, since it has more mutations than the previous delta variant. There were suggestions that for the same reason the strain may be resistant to current vaccines. Later, the chief sanitary doctor of England Chris Whitty said during a press conference that vaccination can still reduce the risk of a severe course of COVID-19 when infected with the omicron strain.

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

Yesterday, a doctor from South Africa, Angelica Coetzee, said that so far the patients whom she observed are suffering from a mild disease. She also noted that mostly young people fell ill.

The first schematic image of the protein of the new strain, obtained from the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome and Vatican, has already appeared on the network. The diagram shows the number of mutations in the omicron strain compared to the delta strain – the most strongly changed areas are marked in red.

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

The new strain is now being studied by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) – the organization has already called this variation of the virus “of concern.” WHO spokesman Maria Van Kerkhove in an interview with the Financial Times said that a new strain of COVID-19 could have formed in an infected person who did not fully recover. According to her, it could be a patient with a weakened immune system, in whose body the virus has multiplied for a long time.

However, some experts believe that there is no need to panic over the emergence of a new variant of the virus. For example, scientist Andrew Pollard, who led trials of a coronavirus vaccine created by the University of Oxford and launched by AstraZeneca, told the BBC the following:

It is extremely unlikely that among the vaccinated population, due to the emergence of a new strain, a pandemic of the magnitude that was observed last year will begin. Despite mutations in other variants of the virus, vaccines continued to protect against severe forms of the disease as we encountered new strains: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

By the way, they are discussing in the press not only the possible consequences of the emergence of a new strain, but also its very name. New variants of the coronavirus were named after the letters of the Greek alphabet, however, giving the South African strain the name “omicron”, scientists skipped a few letters, which raised questions. The previously identified strain of coronavirus was called mu, and many experts believed the new one would be called nu. But in the end, they missed not only this letter, but also the following “si”. WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris explained why this happened in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The English speaking world would find itself in a situation where it heard two very similar sounds in a sentence. A person would think that we are talking about some new version, and not the name of this option. Xi was rejected to avoid confusion and discomfort to the Chinese people. Xi is an extremely common surname. And our rules dictate not to use words that can harm cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups,

She said.

Recall that the current leader of China Xi Jinping has such a surname.

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

In Russia, the new strain has not yet been registered, but Professor of the Gamaleya Center (Sputnik V was developed there) Anatoly Altstein made a prediction of when this might happen. In his opinion, the strain may penetrate into Russia in the coming months, but it is too early to say anything.

It has not yet been studied, it was discovered only on November 11. It is not yet clear how the antibodies elicited by modern vaccines act on him. Will it spread – time will also tell,

– said Altstein, noting that earlier in different countries, local strains, for example, Brazilian and Peruvian, had already been fixed, but they were not widespread.

The head of the Gamaleya Center, Alexander Gintsburg, in turn, said that if necessary, the vaccine can be modified quite quickly, but first you need to study a sample of the new strain in detail in order to understand whether such changes are necessary in principle.

Distribution in the world, meaning of the name and forecasts of scientists: what is known about

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