The Institute for Diagnostics and Epidemiological Reference (InDRE) began analyzing a suspicious case of the COVID-19 variant Omicron, detected in a traveler from South Africa, federal authorities confirmed yesterday. Additionally, various health centers are investigating suspicious cases of the new COVID-19 variant that has rapidly spread across the world and is confirmed to have entered 29 different countries across the EU, Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.
This morning, the variant was confirmed to have entered the country through a 51-year-old man traveling from South Africa, confirmed Hugo López-Gatell, Vice Minister of Prevention and Health Promotion. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed the patient was admitted to a private hospital in Mexico City but was reportedly out of danger after showing only mild symptoms of the disease. The patient volunteered to stay quarantined in the medical center to avoid spreading the variant.
Before the confirmation of the first case in the country, Mexico ruled out closing its borders from international travelers and imposing travel restrictions or strict health protocols such as mandatory curfews or quarantines. During a public celebration of three years in office held in Mexico City’s downtown Zocalo square, president López Obrador instead called for calm regarding the news of the variant because of the country’s growing vaccination percentage.
However, scientists worldwide forecast that vaccines will be significantly less efficient in stopping infections from the Omicron variant. The impact of the “super-mutant” of the COVID-19 virus can be inferred through an earlier study in which scientists purposely mutated the spike portion of the virus to analyze how SARS-CoV-2 could learn to outsmart antibodies’ ability to detect and kill the virus with the help of vaccines. Scientists replicated mutations already present in variants around the world to create the “polymutant spike” engineered mutation, which shares many of mutations with the Omicron variant. Researchers found that the antibodies of those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could not even partly neutralize the laboratory-created mutant. Worryingly, the Omicron variant has 10 additional spike mutations than the study’s mutant.
"Based on those findings, we expect that Omicron will be significantly resistant to antibodies that are circulating in individuals who have convalescence or who have had mRNA vaccines," Paul Bieniasz, Co-Leader of the September study and Rockefeller University virologist, said.
However, scientists are hopeful that receiving a third dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine could better protect individuals from the Omicron variant. Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Adviser, Pfizer, remains “cautiously optimistic” of this being the case for individuals who have received a Pfizer booster vaccine. Mexico recently reconsidered its original opposition to booster shots being administered in the country and with the arrival of the Omicron variant, the country might be likely to start planning their distribution.