What You Need to Know About the Omicron Variant

November 30, 2021

What You Need to Know About the Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is the latest variant to grab the attention of the entire world as we brace for the winter season.

First identified in South Africa on November 9, the Omicron variant has already been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.” The designation is the same as the Delta variant, and is a step up in severity than “variant of interest” as the Lambda variant is classified.

The reason for the swift severity of the WHO classification is due to the high transmissibility of the variant and concerns of “immune escape potential”. The Omicron variant has been identified in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and the Netherlands. 

The WHO said in a statement, “the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” so though not yet officially detected in the US, the variant's arrival to the US is considered unavoidable. 

Why do we care about the omicron variant?

The variant has a high number of mutations. Displaying more than 30 mutations in its key spike protein - the different structures the virus uses to attack human cells - leads to the variant being highly transmissible. The bulk of these variants, however, occur on the spike protein, NOT the nucleocapsid protein, which is what rapid antigen tests detect.

The efficiency of current COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron variant is still unknown. "Further research is needed to better understand the escape potential against vaccine- and infection-induced immunity," the WHO said. "Despite uncertainties, it is reasonable to assume that currently available vaccines offer some protection against severe disease and death."

Many countries are taking precautions against the omicron variant

Already, we’ve seen countries, like Israel and Japan, begin to shut their borders in an effort to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. Additionally, the US, EU, and UK have imposed travel bans on South Africa and other African countries.

Does the On/Go test work with COVID-19 variants?

Yes! On/Go can be used to detect the antigen proteins from all major known COVID-19 variants of concern including Delta. When new variants arise, we rigorously perform tests to ensure the variants do not affect the performance of the test. We’re currently performing tests on the Omicron variant and don’t expect it to impact the effectiveness of the On/Go self-test. Learn more about our study on variants here

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