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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 114-116

Omicron: A variant of public health concern

1 Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
2 Department of Independent Researcher, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
3 Department of Pharmacology, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Date of Submission05-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance28-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Debkumar Pal
Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jss.jss_1_22

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With the detection of Omicron, a new variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 in South Africa, a question arises regarding its implication in public health. The infectivity, ability of getting detected by available testing method and effectiveness of existing vaccine against this strain are not known properly. This Omicron variant can impact public health similarly or more than the Delta variant. The research is going on in many countries to get conclusion regarding the impact of the Omicron variant in public health.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease-19, Omicron, public health

How to cite this article:
Taywade M, Pal D, Kalra R, Maji S. Omicron: A variant of public health concern. J Sci Soc 2022;49:114-6

How to cite this URL:
Taywade M, Pal D, Kalra R, Maji S. Omicron: A variant of public health concern. J Sci Soc [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 5];49:114-6. Available from: https://www.jscisociety.com/text.asp?2022/49/2/114/354255

  Introduction Top

Since coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) was first detected in Wuhan Province in China in November 2019, almost all countries worldwide are now affected by COVID-19 socially and financially.[1],[2] Till December 5, 2021, approximately 265 million cases happened worldwide, and more than 5 million people died due to COVID-19.[3] The disease itself and the lockdowns created havoc worldwide, which was relieved by introducing vaccination to some extent.[4] There are three peaks or waves of the disease observed in many countries, with only two waves in many others.[5]

  Waves of Coronavirus Disease-19 Top

Till now, three waves of COVID-19 came; wave described as more number of cases detected over a specific time of period in respect to disease trend. One of the main reasons for waves in any infectious disease pandemics is the change in the genetic structure of the infective agent.[6] This change or mutation leads to a change in immune escape, increased virulence, change of susceptible population, or change in clinical features of the disease. This mutation is not unknown, but some viruses are more prone to this mutation due to their genetic makeup.[7]

  Variants of Coronavirus Disease-19 Top

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus evolution (TAG-VE) is a group of experts continuously monitoring for different variants of COVID-19. The B.1.1.529 variant was first detected from a sample taken on November 9, 2021, followed by first reporting to the World Health Organization from South Africa on November 26, 2021.[8] The TAG-VE detected many mutations within this variant and called it a variant of concern (VOC). As per the Centers for Disease Control, all the variants of SARS-CoV-2 can be divided into VOC, variant of interest, and variant of monitoring, depending on epidemiology, mutation, and impact in public health. VOCs detected till now are presented in [Table 1].[9]
Table 1: Different variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2

Click here to view

  Known Facts of Omicron Top

From preliminary testing, it was found that one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) in reverse transcriptase real-time polymerase chain reaction.[10] This finding can be used to detect this variant before confirmation by genomic sequence. A study published in the preprint found that this variant is more infectious than other previous variants.[11]

  Omicron Can Create Problems Top

There could be different problems arising from Omicron, as similarly shown by the appearance of the Delta variant. There could be more transmission of the virus, leading to more infections, more fatality due to infection, infection in the vaccinated population, infection among children, or atypical clinical features of COVID-19.[12],[13],[14],[15] In the second wave, there was more infection among children and young adults, and there were more fatalities among these two groups than in the first wave.[16] The Omicron variant could create a similar situation.

  Way Forward Top

The interaction between receptor binding domain of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 leads to infection in humans.[17] The mutations are not uncommon in the spike protein. These types of mutations are causing the interaction between viruses and the human body, leading to change in transmissibility, infectivity, and virulence of the virus.[18],[19] The Omicron probably will not be an end, more variants are on the way to break in. In many countries already, restrictions are imposed in international travel with testing despite being vaccinated, simultaneously active contact tracing for Omicron variant-infected patients, and genomic sequencing going on many countries to detect the variant.[17],[20] Currently, many research activities are going to understand the epidemiology of the Omicron variant to prevent any significant public health disaster.

  Conclusion Top

As a new VOC, Omicron was detected from South Africa, followed by its detection in many countries. The question arose whether there is one more wave of COVID-19 is waiting for us or not. This variant is now detected in more than 30 countries worldwide until December 5, 2021. Currently, researchers are trying to find the answer to the question: How will Omicron affect the world?

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Weisblum Y, Schmidt F, Zhang F, DaSilva J, Poston D, Lorenzi JC, et al. Escape from neutralizing antibodies by SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variants. eLife 2020;9:1.  Back to cited text no. 7
Science Brief: Omicron (B.1.1.529) Variant | CDC. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/scientific-brief-omicron-variant.html. [Last accessed on 2021 Dec 05].  Back to cited text no. 8
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Karim SS, Karim QA. Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant: A new chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet 2021;398:2126-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
Pulliam JRC, van Schalkwyk C, Govender N, von Gottberg A, Cohen C, Groome MJ, et al. Increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection associated with emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa. medRxiv [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1;2021.11.11.21266068. Available from: http://medrxiv.org/content/early/2021/12/02/2021.11.11.21266068.abstract.  Back to cited text no. 11
Townsend JP, Hassler HB, Wang Z, Miura S, Singh J, Kumar S, et al. The durability of immunity against reinfection by SARS-CoV-2: A comparative evolutionary study. Lancet Microbe 2021;2:e666-75.  Back to cited text no. 12
van Kampen JJ, van de Vijver DA, Fraaij PL, Haagmans BL, Lamers MM, Okba N, et al. Duration and key determinants of infectious virus shedding in hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). Nat Commun 2021;12:267.  Back to cited text no. 13
Luo CH, Morris CP, Sachithanandham J, Amadi A, Gaston D, Li M, et al. Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant is Associated with Higher Infectious Virus Loads Compared to the Alpha Variant in both Unvaccinated and Vaccinated Individuals. medRxiv [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1;2021.08.15.21262077. Available from: http://medrxiv.org/content/early/2021/08/20/2021.08.15.21262077.abstract.  Back to cited text no. 14
Chemaitelly H, Tang P, Hasan MR, AlMukdad S, Yassine HM, Benslimane FM, et al. Waning of BNT162b2 vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in Qatar. N Engl J Med 2021;385:e83.  Back to cited text no. 15
Iftimie S, Lopez-Azcona AF, Vallverdu I, Hernandez-Flix S, de Febrer G, Parra S, et al. First and second waves of coronavirus disease-19: A comparative study in hospitalized patients in Reus, Spain. PLoS One 2021;16:e0248029.  Back to cited text no. 16
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Shehata1 AA, Parvin R, Nagy A, Wang Y, Azhar TM, Attia YA, et al. An overview of the ongoing challenges in SARS-CoV-2 global control. German J Microbiol 2021;1:1-18.  Back to cited text no. 18
Attia YA, El-Saadony MT, Swelum AA, Qattan SY, Al-qurashi AD, Asiry KA, et al. COVID-19: Pathogenesis, advances in treatment and vaccine development and environmental impact – An updated review. Environ Sci Pollut Res 2021;28:22241-64.  Back to cited text no. 19
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