The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant, one of the mutated versions of the virus that causes COVID-19, has been mutating continuously and exists in the community even after more than a year. Although they cause milder infections in vulnerable sectors of the population, everyone should be cautious, according to a recent study on the variant.
Public health experts have conducted genomic surveillance of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and its sublineages in the state to understand the mutational patterns of the virus between December 2021 and March 2023, when it was prevalent in the population.
The study of the B.1.1.529 variant aimed to understand its mutational patterns and genetic interrelationship in the Indian population.
The researchers found unique mutations at different times and they continued to evolve in the general population, escaping both natural and vaccine-induced immune responses.
“Our findings suggest that continued surveillance of viral variants on the global stage is warranted to take intervention measures against potentially precarious SARS-CoV-2 variants and their evolution,” the authors wrote in the paper. Genomic surveillance of Omicron B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 and its variants between December 2021 and March 2023 in Tamil Nadu, India: a state-level prospective longitudinal study published in the latest edition of Journal of Medical Virology.
The researchers said their studies found “several unique mutations that could likely explain the evolution of the virus and the functional changes associated with the variant.”
Their research revealed that SARS-CoV-2 is actively evolving, resulting in a number of sublineages that could influence the infectivity and pathological effects of the virus on the host. The authors concluded that the evolution of the virus “underscored the need to intensify surveillance measures to evaluate the temporal and geographical effectiveness of the vaccine.”
“The Omicron variant has been modified for more than a year with numerous variants of interest. Fortunately, it has only produced a milder infection and has replaced the severe variants. That way we can even call him the protector of the community,” said TS Selvavinayagam, lead author of the paper and state Public Health Director.
The virus continues to exist in the community. “It will continue to be modified and may affect a certain vulnerable population” such as the elderly, children and people with comorbidity. However, “stay healthy, manage all your NCDs (non-communicable diseases) through appropriate lifestyle changes and report to a health center if symptoms appear, especially if you are vulnerable,” he suggested.