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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 70-71

Differentiating the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant from other COVID-19 variants of concerns and the common cold

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission24-Jan-2022
Date of Decision29-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance01-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication24-Feb-2022

Correspondence Address:
Chetan Dixit
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi - 110 025
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/am.am_14_22

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How to cite this article:
Dixit C, Haleem A, Javaid M. Differentiating the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant from other COVID-19 variants of concerns and the common cold. Apollo Med 2022;19:70-1

How to cite this URL:
Dixit C, Haleem A, Javaid M. Differentiating the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant from other COVID-19 variants of concerns and the common cold. Apollo Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 22];19:70-1. Available from: https://www.apollomedicine.org/text.asp?2022/19/1/70/338427


One of the latest variants of SARS-CoV-2, first detected in South Africa, is named Omicron (B.1.1.529), which is highly mutated and infectious. It is more infectious than the prevalent Delta variant (B.1.617.2). We see that this variant would be the main SARS-CoV-2 variant across the globe.[1],[2] According to the available studies, Omicron is milder than the Delta variant, with a 30% to 70% reduced probability of persons infected ending up in the hospital. Omicron can induce cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, and headache, but this does not imply that everyone will be affected in the same way, and some people can become very ill. Researchers from Hong Kong University identified that the Omicron variant (B11529) attacks the respiratory tract, and this variant multiplies 70 times faster in the bronchi than the Delta variant and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.[3] The overall threat posed by Omicron is determined by four key issues (public health and social measures [PHSM]):

  • Capability of spreading of the variant
  • Response to vaccines and earlier infection protection on, transmission, clinical disease, and death
  • Effectiveness of Omicron variant concerning other variants
  • How well can populations understand these complexities and risks and conform to control measures, such as social measures and public health?

Commonly used polymerase chain reaction and antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests can detect Omicron, as S-gene dropout or target failure has been used to distinguish Omicron from Delta. Multiple gene target tests will seek to identify the test as positive for COVID-19.[4] To avoid infection, people should actually keep spaces adequately ventilated, avoid overcrowding and close contacts, they should use well-fitting quality masks and should, wash hands frequently, and also get vaccinated, as they did with previous variants. Some are now getting booster doses as well.

The evolution of SARS-genome CoV-2's (through random mutations) resulted in naturally chosen mutant virus specimens (i.e., genetic variations), which is more transmissible. Some SARS-CoV-2 variants are of worry because they retain replicate fitness in the face of rising population immunity.[5]

The WHO has designated five variants of SARS-CoV-2 as variants of concern: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron. These mutations play a role in the COVID-19 pandemic's persistence. The information and transmissibility risk level for the following variant of concern are presented in [Table 1].
Table 1: Currently designated “variants of concern” and the common cold

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[Table 1] briefs the source of the outbreak and the transmissibility of the variants concerning each other. It gives technically brief and presents the most recent information on the critical elements of Omicron transmission and severity, with making differences with the common cold. There is currently limited available data on vaccine effectiveness for Omicron, and no peer-reviewed research seems available.

When it comes to COVID-19 and the common cold, a person can be infected for one or more days before experiencing disease symptoms. However, if a person has COVID-19, symptoms may take longer to appear than if they had a common cold. A COVID-19 infected person may be contagious for a more extended period than if they have a cold.[9] COVID-19 is found to have more spread events than the common cold. This means that the virus that causes COVID-19 can rapidly and readily spread to a large number of people, resulting in ongoing spread among people as time passes.[10] COVID-19 appears to cause more severe illnesses in older people, pregnant women, infants, and even children. Even healthy people can develop severe COVID-19 sickness, leading to hospitalization, or even death. Thus, this variant is quite different from the common cold viruses.

Therefore, individuals should use proven PHSM to lower their risk of the Omicron variant, such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distance, enhancing indoor ventilation, avoiding crowded locations, and being vaccinated. It should not be treated like a common cold infection.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Collie S, Champion J, Moultrie H, Bekker LG, Gray G. Effectiveness of BNT162b2 vaccine against omicron variant in South Africa. N Engl J Med 2022;386:494-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
Nemet I, Kliker L, Lustig Y, Zuckerman N, Erster O, Cohen C, et al. Third BNT162b2 vaccination neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 omicron infection. N Engl J Med 2022;386:492-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
Lung Tissue Study Sheds Light on Fast Omicron Spread. Available from: https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/12/lung-tissue -study-sheds-light-fast-omicron-spread. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 22].  Back to cited text no. 3
SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern and Variants under Investigation in England. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1042367/technical_briefing-31-10-december-2021.pdf. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 22].  Back to cited text no. 4
COVID: Is There a Limit to How Much Worse Variants Can Get? Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-57431420. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 22].  Back to cited text no. 5
Campbell F, Archer B, Laurenson-Schafer H, Jinnai Y, Konings F, Batra N, et al. Increased transmissibility and global spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern as at June 2021. Euro Surveill 2021;26:2100509.  Back to cited text no. 6
Risk Assessment for SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron (PDF) (Assessment). Public Health England. December 22 2021. GOV-10869. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/investigation-of-sars-cov-2-variants-of-concern-variant-risk-assessments [Last accessed on 2021 Dec 23].  Back to cited text no. 7
Arroll B. Common cold. BMJ Clin Evid 2011;2011:1510.  Back to cited text no. 8
COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Treatment Guidelines. National Institutes of Health. Available from: https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 22].  Back to cited text no. 9
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 22].  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Table 1]


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