Italian scientists have presented an image showing mutations in the novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Considered to originate from southern Africa, the variant has already raised the alarm in several countries around the world.
The illustration of the new strain, unveiled on Saturday by the Italian hospital Bambino Gesu, presents the Omicron in comparison with the Delta variant, one of the most contagious strains of Covid-19.
The Omicron variant has many more mutations than Delta, especially in areas that directly interact with human cells. The hot spots of mutations are highlighted in red on the image unveiled by the scientists.
“It’s a ‘photo’ in the very broad sense, it’s a model made in the laboratory”, said a representative of the hospital quoted by RIA Novosti.
The changes suggest the virus may have adapted well to humans, the scientists noted. Still, it’s too early to tell if these combined mutations actually make Omicron more dangerous compared to previous iterations of Covid-19.
The new strain, officially designated as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday, was first detected in Botswana earlier this month. The strain is believed to have already become dominant in one of the regions of South Africa, battling other variants of Covid-19.
The new variant has already spread beyond the African continent, with Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, Germany and the UK confirming the first cases, and other countries investigating suspected infections. The emergence of the Omicron has already resulted in new restrictions, with all 27 EU member states suspending air travel from seven southern African countries. Nations outside the bloc, including the United States and the United Kingdom, impose similar restrictions, while Israel has applied the toughest restrictions in the world so far, effectively banning all foreign nationals from ‘enter the country.