Asia’s first two SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 (Omicron) cases emerged in Hong Kong last week. Being classified as Variants of Concern (VOCs) by WHO, Omicron has immediately gained worldwide attention. How can regular covid tests prevent different variants from further spreading amidst this pandemic?
Understanding the Structure of COVID-19 Virus
SARS-CoV-2 has four structural proteins, known as the S (Spike), E (Envelope), M (Membrane) and N (Nucleocapsid) Proteins. These proteins are responsible for creating the viral envelope, initiating new infection and evading the host’s immune response; while the S-Proteins can enable the virus to attach to and fuse with the host cell’s membrane and hence causing infection.
How Do COVID-19 Viruses Mutate?
COVID-19 viruses enhance its rate of transmission through self-replication. Virus mutations often occur during the replication process and enable it to spread and increase infection numbers, in turn further raising the mutation rate. According to recent findings, one of the most significant mutations of RNA viruses is S-Protein mutation 1。
S-Protein typically has a role of viral entry and is the main protein used as a target in common COVID-19 vaccines. Therefore, mutation of S-Protein is expected to strengthen the virus’s transmission rate and diminish antibodies’ neutralizing capacity and vaccine’s effectiveness. Variants that posed an increased risk to global public health are classified as VOCs by WHO, including2：
- Alpha (B.1.1.7)
- Beta (B.1.351)
- Gamma (P.1)
- Delta (B.1.617.2)
- Omicron (B.1.1.529)
Does Omicron diminish the effectiveness of vaccine? Is it easier to spread and cause severe disease?
First Omicron cases were detected in Botswana in 11th Nov 2021. Omicron has become a global concern within half a month because of its high number of mutations - a total of 50 mutations (more than double the mutations of the currently worldwide dominant Delta variant), while more than 30 of them are S-Protein mutations.
Despite the foreseeable lower effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, data from different countries have shown that in general vaccines can still lower the risk of severe disease and death caused by most variants. However, further studies and observation on vaccine effectiveness and risk of severe disease have to be done due to Omicron’s large number of mutations.
It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants. One of the possible ways that everyone can do to protect ourselves and prevent the widespread of Omicron is through regular testing, including rapid antigen tests and RT-PCR tests.
Is rapid antigen test more effective in testing COVID-19 variants?
An antigen is a molecule or molecular structure present in a pathogen that, when detected in the human body, can trigger an immune response. Antigens are present in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and can bound with specific antibodies. When a virus enters a human body and begins to multiply, the body begins to react to the viral antigens, possibly resulting in symptoms.
® ® COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test determines one’s infection status through detecting the N-Protein of COVID-19 virus, while in normal cases N-Protein mutation is relatively rare. According to an assessment of Omicron conducted by an international organization, the protein mutations of Omicron do not affect antigen tests that target N-Proteins, therefore we do not expect the mutations identified in the Omicron variant to have a significant impact on INDICAID® ® product performance3.*
In light of the infection spread, it is high time that everyone took preventive measures and is suggested to perform rapid tests regularly. INDICAID® ® COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test is easy to use and provides intuitive results in 20 minutes, it can satisfy you and your family members’ regular self-test needs.BUY NOW
If you have close contact with COVID-19 positive patients or are exposed to high risk environment, it is recommended to undergo a RT-PCR test to confirm your infection status. INDICAID labTM offers professional testing services at a safe and comfortable environment, rapid test kits for purchase as well as latest testing knowledge. We fulfill all your testing needs and provide you peace of mind in one go!BOOK NOW
1 COVID-19 疫苗系列專欄：什麼是 SARS-CoV-2 病毒變異株？(顏嘉嫺, 2021)
2 Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants (World Health Organization, 2021)
3 Implications of the emergence and spread ofthe SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1. 529 variant of concern(Omicron) for the EU/EEA (European Centre For Disease Prevention And Control, 2021)
*INDICAID® ® is currently conducting clinical researches on Omicron variant due to its recent discovery, further findings will be announced in no time.