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Omicron has a terrifying mutation.That doesn’t mean they work well together

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Omicron variants of the coronavirus have surprised many scientists because of the large number of genetic mutations they carry. This includes a total of about 50, including at least 26, which are endemic to the coronavirus.However More does not necessarily mean worse: Mutations can work together to make the virus more frightening, but they can also cancel each other out.

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said: “But in this case, evolutionary choices are likely to lead to the spread of new variants with favorable combinations rather than adverse combinations of mutations.”

Nevertheless, this phenomenon, called epistasis, suggests that scientists speculate on the attributes of Omicron, even though individual mutations in the mutant are associated with greater transmissibility or the ability to dodge the body’s immune defenses. That’s why I hesitate.

Penny Moore, a virologist at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in South Africa, said:

Dr. Moore’s team is among the dozens of people around the world trying to understand whether current vaccines are effective against Omicron. Researchers are creating artificial versions of the virus that contain all of the Omicron mutations, rather than making decisions based on a subset of the mutations.

This is a lesson learned by researchers when the beta version came out in South Africa last year. They estimated the ability of the mutant to evade immunity based on one particular mutation, E484K. However, there were also two other mutations in beta that were found to affect susceptibility to the vaccine.

“The combination of these three mutations was more resistant than the virus containing only E484K,” Dr. Moore said. Studying a single mutation “turned out to be misleading.”

Omicron has a mutation called N501Y, which is thought to allow the virus to bind more strongly to human cells. This mutation was also present in the alpha variant and was associated with its infectivity.

“Nevertheless, it was a delta without that particular mutation, which was even more contagious than alpha,” said Dr. Bloom. “That’s because Delta had other mutations that made it more contagious.”

The infectivity of a variant depends not only on how well the virus binds to receptors in human cells, but also on the stability of the virus, where it replicates and how much it is exhaled in the respiratory tract.

Omicron has a cluster of mutations, all of which are associated with tighter binding to human cells. “But by acting together, they may have slightly different effects,” said Dr. Bloom. As a result, he added, it is not possible to predict how the mutant will work in the body.

It requires ongoing laboratory research around the world.

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/29/health/omicron-covid-mutation-epistasis.html

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