The omicron variant probably picked up genetic information from the virus that causes the common cold and possibly would have "greater transmissibility but lower virulence than other variants of the novel coronavirus," according to researchers, reports The Washington Post.
Scientists at Nference, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm that analyzes biomedical information found through genetic sequencing, say the omicron variant shares a piece of genetic code with "HCoV-229E coronavirus, which can cause the common cold."
The scientists said that the genetic code in HCoV-229E has not been found in other COVID-19 variants.
"By virtue of omicron adopting this insertion … it is essentially taking a leaf out of the seasonal coronaviruses' page, which [explains] … how it lives and transmits more efficiently with human beings," Venky Soundararajan, a biological engineer who co-wrote the study, said.
Soundararajan adds that as viruses become more transmissible, they generally "lose" their traits that cause severe symptoms. But he also noted that much more information is needed on omicron before scientists can decide on its effects.
On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, warned that there was "absolutely … community spread" within the United States.
Biden recently stated, "look what's happened ... We're starting to make some real progress, and you find out there's another strain."
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