The Omikron variant virus, which was discovered in South Africa, is now keeping the whole world on guard. Scientists are working tirelessly to learn more about how the mutation came about and its consequences.
Some experts have come to the assumption, at least with regard to the origin, that the omicrons arose in a patient with HIV or another form of immunodeficiency. This is conceivable and likely, similar results have already been published in other cases, Karsten Watzel, general secretary of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI), told dpa.
According to Watzel, the virus can multiply over several weeks in people with weakened immune systems. “In the process, isolated mutations can occur that may not bring the virus any advantage, but can continue to reproduce due to lack of control by the immune system.” This can lead to additional mutations which, when combined, may bring advantages.
“The many mutations speak of progression in HIV patients,” SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach tweeted Friday.
Compared to the original Sars-CoV-2 from Wuhan, Omikron contains an unusually high number of about 30 amino acid changes in the spike protein alone. These include mutations known to be associated with greater transmissibility and landscapes.
There are also many mutations whose meaning is still unclear. “Even if we knew or were able to estimate the effect of individual mutations from other variants, it is currently unclear what the effect of this group of mutations will be,” Watzel explained.
Watzel said that many HIV patients in Africa do not receive proper treatment, which is why their immune systems are so weak. In order to avoid the widespread spread of such modifiers as Omikron, it will therefore be important to identify and isolate people with compromised immune systems so that they do not become contagious. “Because even if the virus mutates aggressively in such a person, only transmission of the mutated virus is really dangerous.”
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