The Omicron coronavirus variant was likely the fastest-spreading virus in human history. One person with the measles virus—a standout among infectious microbes—might infect 15 others within 12 days. But when Omicron suddenly arrived this past winter, it jumped from person to person so quickly that a single case could give rise to six cases after four days, 36 cases after eight days, and 216 cases after 12 days. By the end of February the variant accounted for almost all new COVID infections in the U.S.
Back when the Alpha variant was spotted in November 2020, scientists knew little about how its few mutations would affect its behavior. Now, with a year’s worth of knowledge and data, researchers have been able to link some of Omicron’s 50 or so mutations to mechanisms that have helped it spread so quickly and effectively…
Omicron hosts twice as many mutations as other variants of concern, and its BA.2 sublineage may have even more. There are 13 mutations on Omicron’s spike protein that are rarely seen among other variants. Those changes to its anatomy gave it new and surprising abilities. If Delta is the brute-force Hulk variant, think of Omicron as the Flash—masked and wicked fast.
RTFA. It helps to understand what we’re facing. So far.
The article tracks four ways this variant has physically changed. Three of those alterations helped enable the virus to evade our immune systems. Making it more infectious. Fortunately. the fourth appears to have made it produce a milder disease.