Omicron is exploding – but scientists are better prepared than for any past variant | Manon Ragonnet-Cronin

Posted by on December 22, 2021 7:00 am
Categories: Global Stories

We’re making progress in the arms race against the virus, but work in the lab must be supported by public health measures

It’s beginning to feel a lot like last Christmas. Case numbers of a new Covid variant are exploding across the UK, and the prime minister is cautioning that restrictions may be called for. But while the threat of Omicron likely surpasses that of previous variants, our tools to track and combat the virus have also advanced since last year.

The world was alerted to Omicron by the Botswanan and South African scientists who first sequenced the novel variant on 24 November, and it was designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization two days later. It was immediately obvious to them that they had something alarming on their hands when they saw the large number of mutations in the Omicron genome.

Dr Manon Ragonnet-Cronin is an MRC Fellow at Imperial College London and a member of the Imperial College Covid-19 response team

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