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Omicron Probably Has a Piece of the Common Cold Virus: What It Means for Us

Omicron Probably Has a Piece of the Common Cold Virus: What It Means for Us

With the new variant of concern, Omicron, now threatening the progress we’ve made in ending the pandemic, scientists say the following weeks are crucial. Soon, we might finally know if the Omicron variant is more vicious in terms of transmissibility, severity, and reinfection. Also, the weeks to come might reveal if the new variant of COVID truly evades the protection vaccines provide. For now, they have a suspicion: Experts believe that Omicron may have picked up a piece of the common cold virus.

But, what does it mean for us if the variant does have a sliver of the common cold virus? Find out here.

Omicron’s Many Mutations and a Snippet of the Common Cold

If there’s one thing that concerns scientists about the new variant of COVID, it’s the unusually large number of mutations it has.

The more mutations a variant has, the higher the possibility that it can cause more reinfections, lead to more severe symptoms, and spread faster. Possessing more mutations might also indicate that it can escape the protection provided to us by the antibodies from natural infection and vaccination.

According to reports, one of Omicron’s many mutations likely resulted from it picking up a piece of the common cold virus. Scientists explained that the genetic code sequence was not present in the earlier variants of SARS-CoV-2. But it’s present in many other viruses, including the common cold.

How This Mutation Could Have Occurred

In terms of how the new variant of COVID could have possibly picked up the common cold virus, experts came up with the following explanation:

It’s likely that the same cells infected with COVID-19 were also infected by the common cold virus.

From there, the COVID-19 virus possibly picked up a snippet of the common cold virus, resulting in one of the mutations.

But where it started, we probably wouldn’t know for sure. It might have started in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected. After all, the county has one of the highest rates of HIV cases. As we know, HIV infection weakens the immune system. And this makes those with HIV more vulnerable to many infectious diseases, including the common cold.

But then again, the new variant of COVID could have started anywhere, considering how fast it was detected in many countries immediately after being reported.

The Implications of the New Variant of COVID

At this point, you may be wondering “What are the implications of the Omicron picking up a snippet of the cold virus? Is it a good or bad thing?”

According to experts, picking up a genetic sequence of the common cold virus makes Omicron “more human.” This might enable it to evade our immune system. This could also mean it’s more transmissible. But at the same time, it could cause milder infections (just like the common cold).

But until we have more data about the Omicron variant, we don’t know for certain.

The Most Important Thing To Do Right Now

Right now, experts agree that the most important thing to do is to vaccinate. Getting the vaccine reduces the risk of acquiring two infections at the same time, which might help prevent other mutations from emerging.

Likewise, the Center for Disease Control reported that the vaccines work against the new variant of COVID on many fronts. These include preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. However, they also speculate that breakthrough infections are likely to occur.

It’s crucial for people to get their vaccines and booster shots when available. Of course, let’s not forget that following health and safety protocols should also be a priority.

More Health News here.

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Sources

Omicron Likely Picked Up a Piece of the Common Cold Virus, https://www.reportr.world/news/omicron-likely-picked-up-piece-of-common-cold-virus-a4799-20211206, Accessed December 7, 2021

Omicron variant may have picked up a piece of common-cold virus, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/omicron-variant-may-have-picked-up-piece-common-cold-virus-2021-12-03/, Accessed December 7, 2021

Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 harbors a unique insertion mutation of putative viral or human genomic origin, https://osf.io/f7txy/, Accessed December 7, 2021

Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html, Accessed December 7, 2021

What we know about the Omicron variant, https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/what-we-know-about-omicron-variant, Accessed December 7, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Dec 07, 2021
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales