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Omicron "A Variant of Concern"

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

The CDC defines the "Variant of Concern" (VOC) for an new variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (for example, increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

To date, reports indicates that Omicron as a VOC is likely associated with a higher R Naught and a more rapid transmission in the society. The available PCR testing is able to detect this variant as it shows S-gene target failure and the rapid antigen test will not be affected by this variant and remains a good test for screening. Given the many mutations on the S protein (more than 30), it is likely that there is a significant loss of monoclonal antibody activity but this has to be confirmed. At this point; it is not known if the newer antiviral agents (monlupiravir and Paxlovid) will lose activity against this variant or not. Finally, it seems that there is a higher rate of reinfection in previously infected people indicating that the virus may evade natural immunity and the disease is milder in vaccinated people indicating that the vaccine may protect from severe disease but this has to be conformed!.

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