Omicron variant found in 20 nations, Dr Anthony Fauci says

US chief medical adviser says it's difficult to know whether the new variant will lead to severe disease.



Reuters file
Reuters file

By Agencies

Published: Wed 1 Dec 2021, 12:11 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Dec 2021, 1:46 PM

White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that 226 cases of the highly mutated Omicron Covid-19 variant have been detected across 20 countries so far, but US officials haven’t confirmed a case in the states yet, CNBC reported.

“This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern, and although some mutations are also found in Ddelta, this is not Ddelta,” Dr Fauci told reporters at a White House Covid-19 task force briefing. “These mutations have been associated with increase transmissibility and immune evasion.”

There are several other mutations to the virus that scientists haven’t seen before and don’t know how they will change how the virus behaves or spreads, he said.

Dr Fauci said it was difficult to know whether the Omicron variant will lead to severe disease, adding that preliminary information from South Africa indicated it did not lead to unusual symptoms.

The variant, which first emerged in South Africa about a week ago, has more than 30 mutations to the spike protein alone. That’s the key part of the virus that allows it to bind to human cells and infect the body.

Already unnerved by the newest variant, Wall Street’s losses deepened on Tuesday after the head of the Federal Reserve said it will consider shutting off its support for financial markets sooner than expected.

The S&P 500 was 1.3 per cent lower in afternoon trading after Fed Chair Jerome Powell told Congress the central bank may halt the billions of dollars of bond purchases it’s making every month “perhaps a few months sooner.”. — Agencies

Earlier in the day, financial markets fell sharply after the head of drugmaker Moderna said existing vaccines would be less effective against the Omicron variant, but they recovered strongly after more reassuring comments from European officials.

European Medicines Agency executive director Emer Cooke told the European Parliament that existing vaccines will continue to provide protection.

Andrea Ammon, chair of the European Centre for Disease Pprevention and Control, said the cases of Omicron so far confirmed in 10 European Union countries were mild or without symptoms, although in younger age groups. — Agencies

The variant, which first emerged in South Africa about a week ago, has more than 30 mutations to the spike protein alone. That’s the key part of the virus that allows it to bind to human cells and infect the body.

Dr Fauci said it was difficult to know whether the Omicron variant will lead to severe disease, adding that preliminary information from South Africa indicated it did not lead to unusual symptoms.


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