International travellers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) arrive at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport Photograph:( AFP )
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, says that even young, healthy people can succumb to the variant
Scientists are hunting for links in the genes of people that might make them more susceptible to Omicron.
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, says that even young, healthy people can succumb to the variant.
As scientists race to understand the consequences of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, one of the most important questions is whether this new version of the coronavirus can outrun the globally dominant Delta variant.
According to Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert and professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, ''We'll get a better handle on the severity of the illness within two weeks."
"We're hearing different reports, some saying it's a very mild disease and others (reporting) some severe cases in South African hospitals."
Within a similar time frame, researchers said they expect early answers on whether Omicron can evade protection from vaccines. Initial data will come from lab tests of blood samples from vaccinated people or lab animals, analyzing antibodies in the samples after exposure to the new variant.
David Ho, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University in New York, believes Omicron will show a substantial degree of resistance, based on the location of its mutations in the virus's spike protein.
"The vaccine antibodies target three regions on the coronavirus spike, and Omicron has mutations in all three of those regions," Ho said.
"You can have people of the same age, same-sex and same health overall and they may still react very differently to an infection from SARS-Cov-2," says epidemiologist Seiamak Bahram.
"Some of the genes included in this signature could ultimately become therapeutic targets for severe forms of COVID-19 or acute respiratory distress syndrome," the study concluded.
The first real-world studies of vaccine effectiveness against Omicron in the community are likely to take at least three to four weeks, as experts study rates of so-called "breakthrough" infections in people who are already inoculated, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.
(With inputs from agencies)