Berlin A prominent German expert in immunology suggested that the sudden number of mutations in the Corona virus variant “Omicron”, could indicate that it originated in a patient infected with HIV or any other immunodeficiency.
“This is not only possible, but also likely,” Karsten Watzel, Secretary-General of the German Society of Immunology, told dpa, citing similar results published in other cases.
Vazel stated that the virus can replicate over several weeks in people with weakened immune systems, and he said, “During this process, some mutations can arise that may not provide the virus any benefit, but it can nevertheless continue to replicate due to failure of the immune system. The immune system is in control of it,” explaining that this may lead to additional mutations, which together can become beneficial to the virus.
Compared to the original strain of the Corona virus that first appeared in the Chinese region of Wuhan, Omicron has an unusually large number of changes of about 30 amino acid changes in the spike protein alone.
The Omicron strain has an unusually high number of changes of about 30 amino acid changes in the spina protrusions alone.
Among these changes are mutations known to be associated with greater transmission and immune evasion, and there are also many mutations whose strength of influence is still unclear.
“Even if we know or can estimate the effect of some of the mutations that arose from other mutations, the nature of the effect of this group of mutations is still unclear,” Watzel said.
Vazel added that many HIV patients in Africa do not receive appropriate treatment, which is why their immune systems are greatly weakened, explaining that to prevent the spread of widely mutated variants such as “Omicron”, it will be important to identify and isolate people with immunodeficiency. So that they do not become carriers of infection.
“Because even if the virus mutates so badly in such a person, the transmission of the mutated strain is what is really dangerous,” he said.
A South African doctor who treated about thirty patients with the new mutant Omicron confirmed that she had noticed “mild symptoms” in patients who had committed to a recovery period without having to enter hospital at the present time.
Over the past 10 days, Angelique Coetzee, who also chairs the South African Medical Association, has received those patients who tested positive for COVID but with unusual symptoms.
“What drove them to come to my clinic” in Pretoria “is the extreme exhaustion,” she told AFP.
Most of them were men under the age of 40, just under half had received the vaccine, and some had low fevers.
Coetzee alerted the health authorities on November 18 that this clinical case was incompatible with the delta mutant that was prevalent in South Africa.
South African researchers announced on the 25th of November that they had detected the mutant B.1.1.529, which the World Health Organization called the next day “Omicron”, with multiple and possibly highly contagious mutations.
This news sparked a state of panic, and within hours many countries decided to ban entry to South Africans.
Coetzee stated that little is known about the seriousness of this mutation, which the World Health Organization described as worrisome.
“I’m not saying there will be no serious illnesses but right now, even the patients we’ve seen who haven’t been vaccinated have mild symptoms,” she said.