Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
The big news this week seems to be centered around the Omicron variant. The variant was detected by scientists in South Africa and by the health department. It now has been detected in more than two dozen countries, including the United States.
It has caused quite the panic across the globe, with travel restrictions coming into play worldwide. The concern is that it will be more infectious than Delta but we have no evidence for this yet. It is interesting because it carries about 50 mutations not seen in combination before, including more than 30 mutation on the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to attach to cells.
In this week’s video, I review what we know about Omicron at this time. Much still is unknown but it appears it may be more transmissible in places with low vaccination rates and many immunocompromised hosts where it would have time to accumulate many mutations. At first it was suggested it is milder because it was in younger people and had fewer symptoms, but now hospitalizations are also increasing suggesting it might not be so mild.
As many of you know, my research career has had a focus on HIV/AIDS, which is also a global pandemic. South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.7 million people living with HIV. It could be we find a connection between the two viruses in the same susceptible population.
As we wait for the data to come in, continue to play it safe. I go over Lily’s 5-point plan again to live with this pandemic because it does not appear to be ending soon.
Meanwhile, have a restful and safe weekend. Happy Chanukah! And, congratulations to the School of Health Professions graduates receiving their degree this weekend.
Paul Klotman, M.D.
President & CEO