New Omicron variant in Veneto, what we are talking about and why not to worry

It was identified by the Laboratory of Genetics, Cytogenetics and Molecular Diagnostics of the Ospedale dell’Angelo in Mestre and is different from the other Xe and Xj recombination variants.

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The news of the sequencing of a new subtype of the Omicron variant Coronavirus Sars-Cov-2, one of the so-called recombinants that arise when different versions of the same virus infect the same person at the same time. The new subtype was identified in Veneto by the Genetics, Cytogenetics and Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory of the Angelo Hospital in Mestre (Venice) from the sample taken in March from a Covid-positive Venetian patient. This is the third recombinant virus isolated in Italy in less than two weeks.

New Omicron variant in Veneto

According to the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of the Venezie, one of the reference centers for the typing of the virus selected as part of the surveillance coordinated by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, the new variant identified is very similar to Xe, the recombinant that emerged in England and which scientists believe may be 10% more transmissible than Omicron 2 (BA.2). “The recognized variant – explained the biologist Alice Fusaro, researcher at the IZV – pcontains features of the omicron and omicron-2 genomes, such as B. Xe, however, the proportion of Omicron is somewhat shorter“. In particular, the new variant discovered in the Venetian patient contains the spike protein of omicron 2, while approximately the first half of the genome belongs to variant BA.1 (omicron 1).

How recombination variants arise

As previously mentioned, when multiple variants circulate simultaneously and co-infect the same individual, recombination events can occur between the two viruses exchanging parts of the genome. In the case of the virus isolated from the Venetian patient, the recombination that gave rise to the new viral subtype occurred between subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 of Omicron.

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The Venetian patient, the IZV experts explain, is not the only case sequenced in Veneto that can be traced back to the new virus. In fact, two more cases were sequenced in early April, in the provinces of Venice and Padua. “The analysis of the genetic sequence of this recombinant in a global context revealed that the virus is similar to the recombinants named Xj originally identified in Northern Europe, although it differs from these viruses by some characteristic mutations (one in ORF1a, two in ‘ORF1b , one in Spike, two in ORF8). The recombinant identified through regional surveillance is distinct from the Xe variant responsible for more than 1,000 cases in the UK.

In particular, about the first half of the genome belongs to the Venetian recombinant to variant BA.1 and the second half to variant BA.2while in the Xe variant, the BA.2 portion is larger, accounting for about 60% of the genome.

At the moment, the IVZ stressed, the phenotypic properties of the new recombinant are not known, which so far has only been characterized genetically, so it is not yet known whether it is more easily transmissible or can cause more or less severe forms of Covid – subtypes Xe or Xj . like dr Fusaro stressed, however, it shouldn’t raise concerns about the vaccine’s effectiveness because it’s very similar to the other two subtypes. “I expect vaccines to block it to a large extent for serious illness and death, but to a lesser extent on the infection front‘ the expert concluded.


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