The Omicron variant: a South African perspective

Published on March 30, 2022   50 min

A selection of talks on Clinical Practice

0:00
My name is Barry Schoub. I'm a Professor Emeritus of Virology at the University of the Witwatersrand, which is the university in Johannesburg. I retired from that post but I am trained as a medical virologist, and currently I chair the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID vaccines. We advise our government on aspects related to COVID vaccines. What we are talking about is the Omicron variant. The latest, the fifth, of the variants of concern, which are spread around the world, basically causing havoc around the world, and I'll looking at predominantly from a South African perspective. You might ask why a South African perspective? The virus was first discovered in South Africa, and a lot of the science has come from scientists in South Africa as a result of it.
0:49
This is a brief timeline of Omicron in South Africa. It was first detected or first alerted to in early November by what's called a S-gene target failure. What we mean by that is that the specific PCR tests, that is a Thermofisher TaqMan® test for those who are in the field, it picks up various genes of the virus, and with this particular variant, the Omicron variant, it fails to pick up the S-gene in that test. That's a very good alerting signal or a screen test for the Omicron. It was picked up by a junior medical technologist in one of the semi-rural laboratories private laboratories in Africa, just out of interest. Anyway, that was in early November. In mid-November, the first actual detection of Omicron was made in Botswana, which is a neighboring country, north west of South Africa, and probably came from South Africa. 12th November, the first detection of Omicron in South Africa. It was then described by scientists, and published on 24th of November. The World Health Organization designated it as the fifth variant concern, or VOC, as Omicron from the Greek letter ο. On the 7th of December, the first neutralizing antibody test revealed that this particular Omicron variant was relatively resistant to antibodies, either from past infection or from vaccines. On the 14th, we had the first clinical vaccine effective studies. Just a brief timeline of the early stages of Omicron in South Africa.
Hide

The Omicron variant: a South African perspective

Embed in course/own notes