Why Omicron infection possibly looks like common cold, researchers explain

Omicron looks ‘more human’ causing mild diseases as it might have picked up the genetic sequence from the other virus in an immuno-compromised host body. 
A person takes the Covid-19 test in Times Square on Friday.(AP)
A person takes the Covid-19 test in Times Square on Friday.(AP)
Published on Dec 04, 2021 06:24 AM IST
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By | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

The symptoms of the Omicron variant are apparently milder than the earlier variants as the variant is making itself look "more human". This is a result of the mutation, during which it has picked up a snippet of genetic material from another virus, probably a common cold virus, according to researchers. In a study led by Venky Soundararajan of Cambridge, it has been revealed that this mutation might have happened in a cell that can host both SARS-CoV-2 and common cold viruses.

What does this finding mean? As Reuters reported, this could mean the virus transmits more easily, while only causing mild or asymptomatic disease. Questions like whether Omicron is more infectious than other variants, whether it causes more severe disease or whether it will overtake Delta as the most prevalent variant are et to be answered as the scientific probe is going on.

The new characteristic of Omicron indicates that it might be a result of viral recombination, which is a process in which two different viruses in the same host cell interact while making copies of themselves, generating new copies that have some genetic material from both "parents".

According to this study, Omicron could have occurred in a person infected with both pathogens where a version of SARS-CoV-2 picked up the genetic sequence from the other virus and that's why Omicron's genetic sequence does not match with the earlier versions. Neither do the symptoms match with Covid caused by the earlier variants of the virus.

The same genetic sequence appears many times in one of the coronaviruses that cause colds in people - known as HCoV-229E - and in the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, Soundararajan said.

South African scientists have earlier hinted that Omicron was probably incubated in the body of a person whose immune system was affected by HIV or by any other immuno-compromising condition.

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