A Worrisome New COVID-19 Variant Identified in South Africa

South African scientists have reported the rapid rise of B.1.1.529, a COVID-19 variant that is highly mutational. The World Health Organization will likely assign  it the Greek letter Nu Omicron* as its more general identifier. The following changes are possible: Nu Omicron variant features 30 modifications to its spike protein that the virus uses as a key to enter and infect human cells.

Director of South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation Tulio de Oliveira notes over on Twitter that “this new variant, B.1.1.529 seems to spread very quick! After a deadly Delta wave in South Africa, the Blue new variant now controls all infection within 2 weeks (now at 75% of the last genomes; soon will reach 100 %).”).


It is amazing how dangerous and infectious this disease can be Nu Omicron variant may be is not known at this time. The Network for Genomic Surveillance South Africa has done a preliminary analysis and found that many mutations might increase transmissibility.

Peter Hotez is a Baylor College of Medicine virusologist. cautions:

Many countries have closed their doors to South African tourists, but the Nu Omicron variant has already been detected in Israel, Hong Kong, and Belgium. The stock market averages fell dramatically around the world due to this variant.

*Update: The World Health Organization (WHO) skipped over Nu to name the variant Omicron. The WHO Not noted

There are many mutations in this variant, and some of them can be dangerous. The risk of reinfection is higher with this variant than it does with other VOCs. It appears that this variant is being reported in more South African provinces than ever before. The variant can still be detected using current SARS CoV-2 PCR diagnostics. Several labs indicate that the PCR test used for SARS-CoV-2 detection does not identify one of the target genes. (S gene dropout, or S Gene target failure). This test could therefore be used for this variant’s marker, pending confirmation by sequencing. This approach has shown that the variant was detected faster than any previous spikes in infection. It is possible that this variant could have a greater growth rate.