1. It May Have Come from Animals
The first theory is that it could have evolved from an infected animal. COVID-19 can also infect animals, and a sick animal could potentially infect a human. However, this theory is highly unlikely as the genome of Omicron doesn’t show any genetic information from animals. So it’s more likely that it evolved in a human.
2. It Could Have Evolved Under the Radar
The second possibility is that the variant evolved in a population that wasn’t being monitored. What could have happened is that it developed in an isolated community where vaccination rates are low.
The problem with this theory is that a lot of genetic sequencing is happening in South Africa. It’s highly unlikely that this variant would go undetected for such a long time. Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh shares that, “I’m not sure there’s really anywhere in the world that is isolated enough for this sort of virus to transmit for that length of time without it emerging in various places.”
3. It Could Have Evolved in an Immunocompromised Person
The last, and most likely possibility is that it evolved in an immunocompromised person. The theory is that the virus might have remained and evolved in the body of a person with a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV. What could have happened is that the virus lingered inside the person’s body for an extended period of time. This is possible if the immune system is not strong enough to completely eradicate the infection.
Over time, the virus replicated and evolved, and when an opportunity came, it infected someone else and it started to spread from there.
This had already happened before in a woman with untreated HIV who was infected with COVID-19. There are also millions of people in South Africa with untreated HIV, so this is the most likely scenario.
Knowing the answer to the question of “Where did Omicron come from?” allows scientists to better understand the virus. This can greatly help in the fight against COVID-19, as well as in enacting safety measures to prevent future outbreaks and mutations of the virus.
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