Australia discovers ‘omicron-like’ variant that is harder to detect

Australia found an “omicron-like” coronavirus strain in a traveler from South Africa that was harder to detect than the highly mutated COVID-19 variant identified late last month.

Australian officials in the state of Queensland told Bloomberg the new lineage found on Wednesday shares half of the genetic structure of omicron, the variant that has sent the world scrambling to stop its spread since it was first detected in South Africa on Nov. 25.

It’s unclear what the discovery means. Viruses often mutate and can share similar genetic codes. Health officials told the news outlet they “don’t know enough about it as to what that means then as far as clinical severity, vaccine effectiveness.”

Omicron is still being studied and has yet to be deemed more virulent or dangerous than other variants, including the now-dominant delta strain.

But omicron had spread to countries across at least five continents within a week of its discovery, contributing to concern that it could be much more transmissible than previous strains.

One study revealed the variant shares genetic material with the coronavirus associated with the common cold and could be more virulent as a result.

Australia, which has seen more than 2,000 deaths related to COVID-19, delayed re-opening its borders last month over concerns with the new coronavirus strain.

Tags Australia coronavirus COVID-19 omicron South Africa

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