Early research revealed that the spiny protein of the omicron mutant, which harbors up to 36 mutations, is more efficient at entering human cells than the spiny delta protein, or even the original virus.
The preprint paper, published in medRxiv, showed that Omicron can infect cells more quickly and easily. “Omicron was four times more infectious than the original coronavirus and twice as contagious as Delta,” noted researcher Wilfredo Garcia Beltran.
The fellow at the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital warned that Omicron was “more infectious than any other species tested.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, also described Omicron as “extraordinarily contagious.”
The White House medical adviser said Omicron “outperformed even the most widespread of its predecessors, including Delta.”
Given the “rapid spread of this unusual mutant,” Dr. Fauci fears that hospitals will be pushed to the breaking point. This is especially true in areas where there is a higher proportion of unvaccinated individuals.
Although omicron appears to cause a milder infection, providing relief to many people, its high transmissibility is still frightening.
Because the virus is able to spread more rapidly, more people at risk of contracting the virus may become ill at the same time.
The latest data from the U.K. Health Security Agency confirmed that there were 407 hospitalizations and 39 deaths.