Where Did Omicron Come From? By Brian Simpson
As expected there is considerable disagreement about the origins of Covid Omicron, the latest variant of the dreaded Covid-19, allowing the elites to go through yet another freak-out phrase with the Covid mandates. Did the virus develop in darkest Africa, or is this another lab escape adventure? There are a large number of mutations in the virus, not seen in previous variants, and this seems consistent with a lab origin, since experimenters were genetically manipulating the virus in a laboratory in Durban, South Africa. Alternatively, and this is a real possibility, the global quest for vaccination of the planet has put intense selective pressure upon the virus, and it is sprouting new mutations, which grow wings, so to speak, through globalism and the mass movement of peoples. I think both of these hypotheses have merit, and both lab releases, either deliberate or accidental, as well as natural selection, will be forces driving infections in the future.
“The genome of Omicron has taken the community of public health scientists by surprise.
Not only are there a large number of mutations, but some of these mutations have not been observed in the many previous genome analyses, thousands of which are being conducted in labs around the world.
Among scientists, there are five competing explanations for this situation.
- Maybe the virus has been mutating toward Omicron for a long while, but it has happened “under the radar” in a region of the world where there are few scientific labs that might have reported its genome in intermediate states. In other words, it appeared someplace where genomic testing was unavailable and intermediate strains remained undetected.
- A single immune-compromised patient might have harbored the virus for an extended period of “long COVID,” during which the virus mutated while replicating within that individual.
- The virus might have jumped to a mouse host and spread from mouse to mouse, in an environment where different mutations would be favored. The heavily mutated virus must then have jumped back to humans.
- The virus leaked from, or was released from, a laboratory in Durban, South Africa, where experimenters were genetically manipulating the virus.
- Vaccinated populations have put intense selection pressure on the virus to evade the vaccine by mutating its spike protein, which is the only part of the virus to which vaccinated individuals have immunity.
Three of the above theories were discussed out in the open. But No. 4 was relegated to the fringes because scientists are still gunshy about discussing engineered bioweapons, and No. 5 has similarly been sidelined because it is politically incorrect to say anything bad about vaccines.
The irony here is that evolution in vaccinated populations may have led to the emergence of a version of COVID that everyone can live with.
Let’s take a closer look at each theory.
Theory #1: Omicron was hiding out in darkest Africa
Christian Drosten, a virologist at Charité University Hospital in Berlin, proposed Omicron evolved its prodigious ability to spread rapidly while hiding out in regions of Botswana and Southwest Africa.
“I assume this evolved not in South Africa, where a lot of sequencing is going on, but somewhere else in southern Africa during the winter wave,” Drosten said.
This region of the world has few virology laboratories that would have reported intermediate versions of the virus.
In both Botswana and South Africa, just under half the population has been vaccinated, according to Reuters. This might explain the many mutations in the spike protein and Omicron’s ability to infect the vaccinated.
Theory #2: Omicron gestated in the slow cooker of a single patient with long COVID
Instead, it appears to have evolved “in parallel — and in the dark.”
Emma Hodcroft, a virologist at the University of Bern, told Science:
“Omicron is so different from the millions of SARS-CoV-2 genomes that have been shared publicly that pinpointing its closest relative is difficult. It likely diverged early from other strains. I would say it goes back to mid-2020.”
That raises the question of where Omicron’s predecessors lurked for more than a year.
Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh told Science he can’t see how the virus could have stayed hidden in a group of people for so long.
“I’m not sure there’s really anywhere in the world that is isolated enough for this sort of virus to transmit for that length of time without it emerging in various places,” Rambaut said.
Rambaut and others propose the virus most likely developed in a chronically infected COVID-19 patient, likely someone whose immune response was impaired by another illness or a drug.
According to Science, when Alpha was first discovered in late 2020, that variant also appeared to have acquired numerous mutations all at once, leading researchers to postulate a chronic infection.
That theory is bolstered by sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 samples from some chronically infected patients.
Theory #3: Omicron jumped to a mouse, then back to humans
This study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, cites genetic evidence from the Omicron genome to support the thesis that the virus jumped to mice, then back to humans.
The frequency of different kinds of mutations (different amino acid substitutions) is different within the mouse physiology compared to the human physiology.
These authors determined the types of mutations found in Omicron are more characteristic of mouse than human physiology.
A creative idea! But perhaps that is its main weakness, because:
- There are a huge number of mutations of every kind when the virus replicates, either in a mouse or a human. The ones that stick are the ones that are adaptive, i.e., the ones that help the virus replicate or spread more effectively to another host. The Chinese study does not address this.
- A great many adaptations would be needed for a virus to effectively infect a mouse population. These would have to be established to accomplish the jump into the mouse population, then undone for the virus to jump back to humans. Still, there is some precedent in the known ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect a herd of white-tailed deer.
- Both these objections could be obviated if the virus were deliberately passaged through humanized micein a laboratory.”
That, is a more likely hypothesis.