MOSCOW, December 1./TASS/. There is no proof that the emergence of the new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, is linked to HIV. Initially, these guesses appeared due to the fact that the new variant came from Africa, where a large part of the population is infected with HIV, Head of the Special Research Department for Disease Control and AIDS Prevention at the Russian sanitary watchdog’s Central Research Institute of Epidemiology Vadim Pokrovsky said on Wednesday.
"The initial version was that this strain appeared in the body of a person with immunodeficiency, it circulated in the body for a long time and therefore mutated. But this could have happened differently - the mutation occurred in the body of one person, a next one got infected from him, and there was another mutation. As a result, a lot of them accumulated," Pokrovsky said.
"The reason why this variant was associated with HIV is because it emerged in South Africa, where a lot of people are infected with HIV, around 20%," he went on to say. "But there is no evidence, and most important is that HIV is not transmitted with this strain," the expert told a news conference marking World AIDS Day.
He noted that coronavirus was more dangerous for the people with the immune system damaged by HIV. "Whether they receives special treatment or not also plays an important role here. If yes, then there is less risk. In general, all this is mainly connected with the level of immunodeficiency," the expert stressed.
On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant identified in South Africa as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. In its statement, the WHO noted that "this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." Several changes at once in the spike protein can potentially hinder the neutralization of the pathogen by antibodies which may impact the effectiveness of vaccines.