Omicron new variant of concern
Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health
Context: WHO has recently classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern”, saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.
- Preliminary evidence suggested that there is an increased risk of reinfection and there had been a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology.
- This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.
- WHO also noted current PCR tests continue to successfully detect the variant.
- While medical experts warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood, nations have raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks
Classes of SARS-CoV-2 variants
Variant of Interest
- A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding which affect its diagnosis and are expected to cause unique outbreak clusters.
- It is known for it predicted increase in transmissibility.
- It is classified based on factors such as genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape etc.
- It represents a lower level of concern than a variant of concern (VOC).
Variant of Concern
- A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths).
- It is known for its significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
- Example – Alpha, Beta and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2.