The Omicron variant is a highly mutated version of COVID-19, Italian researchers have confirmed in publishing the first images of the new strain, scmp.com reported over the weekend.
The image shows the structure of the Omicron spike protein - the part of the virus that allows the viruses to penetrate host cells and cause infection (and which a vaccine targets) - alongside the spike protein of the Delta variant, illustrating a much higher rate of mutation with 43, compared to only 18 for the Delta variant.
Scientists across the globe have been attempting to obtain any new information about the Omicron strain ever since the World Health Organization identified it on Friday as a variant "of concern," leading to widespread international alarm although experts have not yet determined either how severe or how transmissible it is.
The image of the variant, created by researchers at the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome, was first published on Saturday.
The research, coordinated by Professor Carlo Federico Perno and supervised by Professor Claudia Alteri from the State University of Milan, "does not automatically mean that these variations are more dangerous, simply that the virus has further adapted to the human species by generating another variant," Italian media quoted the researchers as saying.
"Further studies will tell us if this adaptation is neutral, less dangerous, or more dangerous," according to scmp.com
Many nations around the world have already increased restrictions on those traveling from southern Africa countries due to concern over the variant.
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