Virus ‘hunter’ hypothesizes Omicron’s origin

Tulio de Oliveira, who was dubbed the “hunter” of the virus, hypothesized that Omicron had been incubated in the body of people with severe immunodeficiency, such as HIV infection.

The team led by the head of the South African Center for Epidemiological Innovation and Response Tulio de Oliveira in June recorded the presence of more than 30 gene mutations in a nCoV specimen taken from a South African woman with early stage HIV infection. last. These mutations, including some that can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine and increase the risk of infection, were present for about 6 months.

De Oliveira fears the same scenario has happened and created the strain of Omicron. On December 2, he hypothesized that Omicron had incubated in the body of a patient whose immune system was affected by HIV or another immunocompromised condition, causing this person to be infected with the virus for a long time and the virus to regulate. event for mutation.

Researchers in the US and Europe have previously discovered disturbing nCoV mutations from patients whose natural immune systems have been affected by cancer drugs, autoimmune disorders, or drugs to keep the immune system healthy. The transplanted organs are not rejected.

Tulio de Oliveira works at a laboratory in Durban, South Africa, in January. Photo: NY Times.

Tulio de Oliveira works at a laboratory in Durban, South Africa, in January. Photo: NY Times.

De Oliveira has been warning for months that in sub-Saharan Africa, 8 million people with undetected or poorly treated HIV are at risk of breeding mutations.

“Most are young, unvaccinated people with weakened immune systems. These people can become ‘incubators of mutations’ around the world,” de Oliveira said.

Oliveira is known as a virus “hunter” because of her experience, having discovered a new variant of nCoV in South Africa earlier this year, later named 501.V2. After receiving the report from the doctor, de Oliveira and his colleagues took only two weeks to identify the new variant, faster than scientists in the US and UK.

Omicron is a new strain of nCoV that was first discovered in Botswana on 11/11 and belongs to WHO’s list of worrisome mutations. Although it is not clear how dangerous and contagious the mutation is, many countries still decide to tighten border controls as a precaution.

Ngoc Anh (Follow LA Times)

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