Omicron COVID-19 variant possibly looks more like the common cold.
It looks like Omicron may have caught a cold. Seriously, researchers say the Omicron variant may have acquired at least one of its mutations from another virus, more likely the common cold, or possibly even the human genome. In a new research paper posted online Thursday, the authors set out to study Omicron’s 37 mutations in the variant’s spike protein (6 deletion mutations, 1 insertion mutation, and 30 substitution mutations) for comparison to other SARS-CoV-2 variants. The study shows the new insertion mutation (ins214EPE) has not been seen to date in any other version of SARS-CoV-2, and is unique to Omicron. Further analysis of the newly discovered insertion mutation also reveals it shares similar genetic attributes with other viruses, including the common cold, and with the human genome.
How did Omicron mutate?
The paper proffers that Omicron picked up this newly acquired snip of genetic material from either another virus that infected the same host cells as SARS-CoV-2, or the human transcriptome of host cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. Whether acquired from the common cold, another virus, or the human genome, the new insertion mutation on the spike protein makes Omicron look “more human” according to the lead author of the study, Venky Soundararajan.
Other researchers must now determine whether Omicron’s newly inserted mutation on the spike protein – with similar attributes to the human genome – will lead to a gain in function and competitive advantage compared to the Delta variant. The WHO reports in its update on Omicron that studies are underway to determine if this new insertion mutation, along with the more than 30 other mutations to the spike protein, may lead to an increase in transmissibility, an escape of our vaccines or infection-induced immunity, or an increase in severity of COVID-19 disease.
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Watch this short video to learn what a Coronavirus is and how it mutates.
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Updated: December 6, 2021