Just how alarming is Omicron and where did it come from?

In The News Podcast: Virologist Gerald Barry explains Covid variants and their potential impact

A medical worker extracts a test specimen  at San Francisco International Airport, California, on Thursday. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A medical worker extracts a test specimen at San Francisco International Airport, California, on Thursday. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

 

The emergence of a new variant of Covid-19 late last month sent public health officials, governments and people all over the world into a spin.

Fear and uncertainty were suddenly back in a big way. Travel restrictions were imposed on at least seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, new rules on pre-departure testing were hastily drawn up for people coming into Ireland while some countries shut their boarders to all overseas visitors entirely.

But what was behind all the panic? Almost as soon as the scientific community became aware of the latest variant – now known as Omicron – the alarm bells started ringing loudly.

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The reason the variant was of such concern was due to the huge number of mutations it has compared to previous variants.

While the Delta variant had 18 mutations when compared to the original virus, Omnicron had 50 with many of them found in the spike protein – the part the virus uses to infect cells.

But what are these mutations? What causes them, and what impact might they have on the trajectory of Covid 19 in the months ahead?

Gerald Barry is a virologist and assistant professor at UCD and he unravels the mysteries of the virus variants and the impact they might have for In The News.

You can listen to the podcast here:
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