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Does the omicron variant of COVID-19 share some of the common cold’s genetic code?

Friday, January 21, 2022
By Lisa Freedland
YES

Researchers from the medical data analytics firm nference have discovered that COVID-19's omicron variant shares a "snippet of genetic material" with the virus that causes the common cold. This snippet has not been found in previous COVID-19 variants. Researchers speculate that omicron could have mutated from someone who was simultaneously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E — the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the common cold, respectively. Frequently reported cold-like symptoms of omicron such as runny nose and sore throat lend support to the finding.

Venky Soundararajan, a co-author of the nference study, suggested that by incorporating genetic material from the cold virus, omicron may be making itself look "more human," helping it evade attack by the human immune system. This could explain its high degree of transmissibility.

Currently, omicron is responsible for 99.5% of the COVID-19 cases nationwide.

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