Researchers Race To Understand Omicron
Researchers are now racing to understand the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Back at the end of November, Beth Korber, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium, reached out to many of her fellow immunologists with concerning news about some new variants she was tracking.
Dan Barouch is an immunologist who runs the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and his lab helped create the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and has studied rival shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. After getting this alert, Barouch and his lab, along with many other researchers around the world began racing to understand the threat of the Omicron variant.
Why was Korber to alarmed at this particular variant? When one looks at the genetic sequence of the variant, it has 32 mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to invade human cells. Many of these mutations were in an area that antibodies latch onto when attacking the virus. This is concerning because these mutations could mean the vaccines are not as effective.
Researchers have been working hard since then to determine if the variant is more contagious and if it causes more severe illness. Researchers are also looking at how effective the vaccines are against this new variant and they are finding out new information every day. According to this article, scientists should know more in the next week or two.
To read more see the entire article by Jonathan Saltzman: ‘I don’t think we’re back to square one.’ Beth Israel races to find out how much vaccines protect against Omicron