Omicron strain can mutate among animals at first, expert says
Specificities of mutation of the novel Omicron coronavirus strain can evidence that its mutation had occurred in a population of large animals and then passed to human beings, founder and chief executive of DNKOM research center Andrei Isaev told TASS.
"We know that an individual with immunodeficiency, chronically ill with HIV and also having chronic COVID, is deemed to be the index patient with Omicron. The assumption is that COVID-19 mutated in his body. My theory is somewhat different. We know mammals, including large cats; various species of deer and mint suffer from the coronavirus. People in South Africa contact the wildlife quietly closely. I believe COVID-19 goes to populations of large mammals and evolves there. This is exactly because species hopping of viruses cause the most distinct differences in combinatorial sets of proteins and form genetic diversity," Isaev said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier designated the coronavirus strain B.1.1.529 found in Southern Africa as Omicron. This strain has a large number of mutations, with some of them of concern for WHO because they may affect the efficiency of vaccines.