Omicron variant: for virologist Christian Béchot, the concern is legitimate

The virologist and president of the “Global Virus Network” was the guest this Saturday of BFMTV, to react to the spread of the new variant of Covid-19, Omicron. If he calls for vigilance, he recalls that nothing indicates, for the moment, that this variant would resist vaccines.

Two days after the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa, the whole world is starting to prepare. While some countries are closing their borders, others are tightening their restrictive measures. A legitimate concern, for Professor Christian Bréchot, virologist and president of the “Global Virus Network”, guest of BFMTV this Saturday evening.

“The information we have shows a very large number of mutations on the whole virus, but in particular on the envelope which is the target of the vaccines. When we look at the sequence, it can be worrying and this is the reason for which the WHO classified as worrying “, explains the scientist, for whom” we are right to get in working order to prevent its dissemination. “

If, for the moment, it is impossible to know if this new variant “is more resistant to vaccines” than another, for lack of “culture tests”, the researchers know “that it has many mutations”, including “some of between them can be dangerous “.

“Very rapid growth” in South Africa

The first source of concern, for Christian Béchot, lies in the conditions under which this Omicron variant has developed, in South Africa, “while gaining ground compared to the Delta variant” and within a poorly vaccinated population. but “naturally highly immune”. Within the populations studied, “growth has been very rapid”. Another black point: “Diffusion in other countries.”

The share of variants sequenced in South Africa
The share of variants sequenced in South Africa © BFMTV

“We knew that variants could happen, which confirms that as long as we have not controlled the circulation of the virus throughout the world, and not only by worrying about national policies, we will not have solved the problem”, says the researcher.

A “completely different situation compared to a year ago”

However, the latter qualifies this rising concern: “We must remember that we are lucky, in a country like France, to have the vaccine, we must do the booster doses”. “There are no indications for the moment that this virus must necessarily resist vaccines, so that does not change the overall strategy. We must always remember that we are seeing the arrival of antivirals, we have monoclonal antibodies and vaccines. The situation is completely different compared to a year ago, “he adds.

If he understands “the anticipation of the threat”, he regrets the insufficient means for screening. “We should have much faster diagnostic tests. Unfortunately, the effort was not made at the same level as the vaccines”, he underlines.

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