- Updated story - COVID-19: New Variant's 50 Mutations Make It Different From Original Virus, NIH Director Says
A new COVID-19 variant that could be worse than the Delta strain is sparking concerns among scientists.
The B.1.1.529 strain, now known as Omicron, could become a "variant of concern" as soon as Friday, Nov. 26, when the World Health Organization holds an emergency meeting.
It is now spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa after first being detected in neighboring Botswana.
The new variant has already shown a large number of mutations, and scientists fear it could be more resistant to current vaccines than other strains and even more infectious than the highly infectious Delta variant.
"Beta," B.1.351, one of the current 12 "variants of concern," originated in South Africa.
"In less than two weeks, it now dominates all infections following a devastating Delta wave in South Africa," said Tulio de Oliveira, the director of Centre for Epidemic Response & innovation in South Africa said on Twitter.
"We are working around the clock to understand effects on 1) Transmissibility, 2) vaccines, 3) Re-infection, disease severity, and diagnostics," he added.
Several nations, including Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic have suspended travel from South Africa in response to the discovery of the new variant.
The Delta strain, B.1.617.2, originated in India and caused the second and the most deadly COVID outbreak in early 2021.
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