What do Omicron's 30 mutations signify? AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria explains
Available information about the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 indicates many possibilities which need to be scientifically established, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said on Sunday commenting on the new variant which has the governments across the world scrambling in panic.
Dr Guleria said it has been reported that Omicron has over 30 mutations in the spike protein region. Mutations at the spike protein region makes a variant potential to develop an immune escape mechanism, Dr Guleria said.
All vaccines of the world against Covid will have to be reviewed as most vaccines work by forming antibodies against the spike protein. Since Omicron has many mutations in the spike protein, it might render many vaccines less effective, the AIIMS chief said.
“The new variant of coronavirus reportedly has got more than 30 mutations at the spike protein region and therefore has the potential of developing immune escape mechanisms. As most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines," Guelria told PTI.
The new variant has first been detected in South Africa and the World Health Organization has identified it as a variant of concern. The variant has now been reported in several other countries including the United Kingdom, Australia. So far, there has been no case reported in India.
Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Division, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said structural changes have been observed in the variant which is indicative of the possibility of "adherence to the same cellular receptors with increased affinity or transmission".
"Some of the vaccines are directed towards the spike protein of the virus, which gets attached to the receptor. So if the changes have happened in the virus then the vaccines might not be effective. The mRNA vaccines need to be tweaked around this change that has been already observed, but not that all the vaccines are of similar nature," he added.
(With agency inputs)