Days after Omicron variant of the ongoing pandemic was first discovered in South Africa, speculations are rife that it is might have emerged from an undiagnosed HIV/AIDS patient. Dubbed as variant of concern, the first case of the variant was detected on November 14 in South Africa, following which it was reported to the World Health Organization, ten days later.
The first image of the new variant, produced and published by researchers at the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, reveals that it has more than double mutations as compared to Delta variant of the pandemic.
Omicron Has High Number of Mutations
The Independent reported that the B.1.1529 was first found in Botswana on 11 November even as the South African government claimed that most of the cases related to Omicron variant are based in Gauteng province.
The major cause of worry is the high number of mutations present in the variant. Omicron has over 30 mutations on its spike protein much more than the one carried by Delta variant, first reported in India.
According to the scientists, due to the high number of mutations it is a strong possibility that it might have evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person. Speaking to the Independent, Professor Francois Balloux, the director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, said that Omicron's mutations are in "an unusual constellation" that "accumulated apparently in a single burst".
"This indicates it could have evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient," said the professor.
What Are the Symptoms of Omicron Variant?
On Monday, the WHO said that the new variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk where COVID-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas of the world.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, the first South African doctor who alerted the health authorities about the new variant emerging in the country, said that the symptoms were unusual but mild.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Coetzee, who has a private practice in Pretoria said that Covid-19 patients visiting her reported of intense fatigue and very high pulse rate. However, none of them reported loss of taste or smell. "Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before. The most predominant clinical complaint is severe fatigue for one or two days. With them, the headache and the body aches and pain," she said.