AIIMS Chief Randeep Guleria, Health News, ET HealthWorld

The novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus is believed to have over 30 mutations in the spike protein region, giving it the potential to develop an immune escape mechanism, and therefore the efficacy of vaccines against it needs to be critically evaluated, a said AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria.

The presence of the spike protein facilitates entry of a virus into the host cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection.

“The novel variant of the coronavirus is said to have more than 30 mutations in the spike protein region and therefore has the potential to develop immune-escaping mechanisms. Since most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations in the spike protein region can lead to decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, ”AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria told PTI.

In such a scenario, the effectiveness of vaccines, including those used in India, must be evaluated “critically,” he said.

The future course of action will depend on what more data shows on its transmissibility, virulence and immunoescpae, he said.

India’s SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia INSACOG is closely monitoring the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not yet been detected in the country, officials said.

Dr Guleria stressed the need to be very vigilant and have aggressive surveillance both for international travelers and in the region where there is a sudden increase in the number of cases.

“In addition, we must ask everyone to religiously follow appropriate behavior in Coivd and not let their guard down. In addition, we must ensure that people receive both doses of the vaccine and that those who do not have not yet taken the vaccine are encouraged to come forward to take it, ”he said.

The new, potentially more contagious variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in South Africa on November 24. It has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, among other countries.

On Friday, it was designated a “variant of concern” by the WHO, which named it Omicron. A ‘variant of concern’ is the main category of strains of concern for Covid-19 from the WHO.

The Center on Thursday called on all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travelers arriving or transiting South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.

In a letter to the Additional Chief Secretary / Principal Secretary / Secretary (Health) of all States and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan called on them to ensure that Traveler samples that have become positive be sent promptly to designated genome sequencing laboratories.

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