Home Biologist Biologist talks about viral mutations and the Omicron variant

Biologist talks about viral mutations and the Omicron variant



PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) – A second case of the Omicron variant has been detected in the United States, but many questions surround the Omicron variant and mutations in the COVID virus. Corey Bouchard of Newssource 8 speaks with a local biologist to learn more about mutations.

Larry Feinstein – Associate Professor of Biology – UMPI “It’s kind of an arms race. As they develop a new ability, we develop a new ability to fight it. It will be an ever-evolving process. “

Larry Feinstein is professor of biology at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He says mutations in the virus are very common.

“Basically, when their DNA is replicated or they make a new copy of it, sometimes there can be random errors … and that can lead to a change in the capacity of the virus”

Most of the changes that occur with the virus are not that big, but some can be beneficial for the virus …

“The Delta variant, there’s one DNA base in 30,000, there’s one DNA base that’s different and the little spike that sticks to cells as the virus passes, instead let the peak be like that, it made it stand out even more and become more contagious “

A worrying new variant is Omicron, a mutation first detected in South Africa.

Dr Nirav Shah – Director, Maine CDC “The emergence of this new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, has caused some concern from scientists around the world due to the large constellation of mutations that this particular virus exhibits”

“The thing with the Omicron is that it’s an open book, there is potential for danger and increased infectivity, but we haven’t really seen how it goes.”

Feinstein says it’s too early to say how effective the vaccines will be against the omicron variant. Feinstein adds that with mRNA vaccines, it will be easy to deploy an additional injection.

“However, with these mRNA vaccines it is very easy to design new ones, so if we need them we can upgrade the vaccines.”

While not much is known, Feinstein says it’s probably not the last variant we’ll see with this virus. Corey Bouchard, news source 8

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