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Omicron variant: 3 things to consider for the COVID-19 variant

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner for the FDA, had three things to watch out for with omicron

A worker disinfects chairs at a new COVID vaccination center.
A worker disinfects chairs at a new vaccination center in Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. The omicron variant is spreading throughout the world, which means scientists are rushing to figure out more information before it becomes too widespread.
Armando Franca, Associated Press

The omicron variant is spreading throughout the world, which means scientists are rushing to figure out more information before it becomes too widespread.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, recently explained to SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio’s “Doctor Radio Reports” that the virus has three things that experts need to look out for right now.

First, Gottlieb said it’s important for researchers to look at “the features of the virus itself.”

  • He said that “the virus sequence has a lot of mutations that we know are associated not just with increased immune evasion, the ability to evade the immunity that we’ve acquired through vaccination of prior infection, but also potentially virulence that could make it more contagious and a more fearsome virus.”

Gottlieb added that the origins of the variant will also play a role in understanding it.

  • “This is a relatively new virus, that its first entry into the human population was maybe early October, but more likely early November,” he said. “So the South Africans based on the data that they have right now think that the first entry of this virus was in early November.”

Lastly, he said the number of cases may be a sign of the virus’ danger.

  • The third thing that’s causing concern is that they’re seeing data that suggests that there’s a lot of cases of it,” he said. “And so if you have a virus that looks scary based on sequence, looks like it originated three or four weeks ago, and looks like there’s already thousands of cases. Those are three very concerning principles because it means it’s a fast moving virus.”

The omicron coronavirus variant was first discovered over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend after South Africa researchers announced its discovery, per the Deseret News.

  • The variant reportedly has dozens of mutations that might make it spread faster and evade COVID-19 vaccines.

Experts recently told The New York Times that early research of the omicron variant suggests the variant “may be more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune responses, both to vaccination and to natural infection, than prior versions of the virus.”