America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said that the new Covid-19 Omicron variant is in "fluid motion" in South Africa and the US scientists are in "very active" communication with their colleagues in that country to test the strain, get facts and find out whether or not it evades the antibodies.
The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24 and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
Talking to CNN, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there is certainly a new variant in South Africa "that has some mutations that are raising some concerns particularly with regard to possibly transmissibility, increase and possibly evasion of immune response.".
Fauci, also the Chief Medical Advisor to US President Joe Biden, said that the new variant seems to be spreading at a reasonably rapid rate in South Africa.
That will take a bit to put the appropriate material together but we are in very active communication with our South African colleagues and scientists," he said.
Lawrence Young, a virologist and a professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, said the Omicron variant was "very worrying.".
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Crucially, South African genomic scientists said Thursday more than 30 of the mutations were found in the spike protein -- the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.
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