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Comparing and contrasting the Omicron and Delta Plus variants of COVID-19

Updated on 11 January 2022

Early in 2021, we witnessed the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in which the Delta Plus variant created havoc. The variant was first detected in India and rapidly spread throughout the globe. The onslaught saw several losses of life and caseload breaching the record mark. The wave lasted for 3 to 4 months, and as things were getting back to normalcy, fear of a new variant has started to haunt us. Variant B.1.1.529 or Omicron was first detected in South Africa and has been declared a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). The rapidly spreading variant can create the onslaught of the third wave. One major difference, or an area of concern, between the 2 variants is that Omicron has a higher transmissible rate than the Delta Plus variant. Let’s look more closely at the contrasts between these 2 variants:

Spike Protein Mutation:

K417N, a spike protein mutation, was acquired by the Delta variant. This led to the upgradation of the Delta variant, which came to be known as the Delta Plus variant. It’s the same mutation that was also associated with the Beta variant. On the other hand, the Omicron variant has 50 mutations with more than 32 mutations on its spike protein. Protrusions outside the virus, formed by the spike protein, help the virus to gain entry into the cells. Therefore, more mutations will result in the variant spreading faster and escaping vaccine protection.

Affect on Vaccine’s Efficacy:

Given the higher number of mutations of the Omicron variant, scientists are concerned about the currently available vaccine efficacy. Though research is still going on, it is speculated that the current vaccine are still expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to this variant. There have been cases of breakthrough infections in people who have received 2 doses of covid vaccines. Booster doses have been recommended by many governments to fight against the raging variant.

Casualties:

The Delta Plus variant wreaked havoc in terms of casualties due to the lack of preparedness of authorities, lacklustre a healthcare system, and carelessness of people. As far as the Omicron variant is concerned, authorities have been on alert since its detection, and effective measures are being taken to avoid the same onslaught as the second wave. As per the time of writing this blog, Australia has reported the first and the only Omicron-related death in the world.

Countries Affected:

So far, the Delta Plus variant has been reported in close to 30 countries, while Omicron has spread to 108 countries. Remedies to keeping yourself safe from the deadly, contagious and rapidly evolving are the same- wear a mask, get yourself vaccinated and maintain social distance. In addition to this, you should work towards improving your immunity. Given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, a third wave looks inevitable, but it's on us how we can keep ourselves safe. One of the major reasons behind the second wave’s havoc was people’s ignorance, and the same during these crucial times can result in a similar outcome. Therefore, be safe by getting yourself vaccinated and following all the COVID-19 norms. by

Dr. Rahul Agrawal

Sr. Consultant
MBBS, MD
CARE Hospitals, HITEC City, Hyderabad

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