Why is this so troubling?

Experts claim it’s the most dangerous variant and they are worried about the many possible mutations.

The variant — which the World Health Organization has named Omicron — has 32 mutations on the spike protein — the most ever recorded and twice as many as the currently dominant Delta strain. 

Experts worry that vaccines may be 40 percent less effective under the worst-case scenario.

Because so many of B.1.1.529’s changes are dependent on virus spike protein

The body recognizes the current vaccines as the original spike in the virus.

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognize the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognize it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

Botswana’s variant contains around 50 mutations, and over 30 are spike proteins. The current generation of vaccines makes it possible for the body to distinguish the spike protein in older viruses. The mutations could make spike proteins look different, which may cause the immune system to struggle to identify it and defeat it. Three of its spike mutations, H665Y and N679K (P681H), allow it to enter cells faster. Experts believe it could be more contagious because it lacks a membrane protein (NSP6), as was the case in previous iterations. Two mutations (R203K, G204R) have been identified in the virus. These two mutations have been found in all known variants and are associated with infectiousness. 

The new spike protein may look different, so the immune system might have trouble recognizing it and fighting it.

There are also mutations that can be found in the Delta variant, which allow for it to spread faster.

Experts say they will not be able to determine how infectious this virus is until at least 2 weeks. They also warn that the impact it has on Covid deaths and hospitalizations may take up to 6 weeks. 

How many mutations is the variant susceptible to? 

Botswana has over 50 mutations, with more than 30 on the spike protein.

The mutations N679K and P681H are rarely found together and may make the organism more resistant to jabs.

This mutation, together with H655Y may make it more difficult for viruses to enter the cells.

N501Y, a mutation that may increase the transmissibility of the strain, was first seen in Beta and Kent’s Alpha variants.

R203K and G204R are two other possible mutations that could make this virus more dangerous. However, a missing mutation from the NSP6 variant could lead to an increase in its transmission.  

Additionally, it has mutations K417N & E484A similar to South African variants of the ‘Beta’ variety. These made it easier to resist vaccines.

But it also has the N440K, found on Delta, and S477N, on the New York variant — which was linked with a surge of cases in the state in March — that has been linked to antibody escape. 

It also has Q493K and Q478K mutations. However, their significance is still not clear. 

Do you think it is a concern variant?

The World Health Organization has classified the virus as a ‘variant of concern’, the label given to the highest-risk strains.

The WHO has concluded that the mutations it presents allow for faster spread, more severe disease and impede vaccine effectiveness. 

Is this where B.1.1.529 was first discovered?

Hong Kong posted the first case on November 23 to its international variant databank GISAID. Person carrying this variant traveled to Hong Kong from South Africa.

The UK was the first nation to detect the threat of the virus and alert other nations.  

Experts think the strain could have been originated in Botswana. However, there are not many positive samples from continental Africa so we may never know where it came from.

Francois Balloux is a University College London geneticist who told MailOnline that the virus probably emerged as a lingering infected patient with immunocompromised, or undiagnosed AIDS.

Patients with weak immune systems can have infections that last for several months. This is because their bodies are unable to combat it. This allows the virus to evolve mutations which allow it to bypass the body’s defenses.

Can I feel protected by a booster?

Researchers have said that the new strain of Covid could render vaccines 40% less effective in preventing infections. However, the effects on severe illnesses are still unclear.

However, they stated that because of the possibility of a mutant form emerging it is even more critical to have a booster jab as soon people can be eligible.

Neutralizing antibodies are produced by vaccines, and they provide the most protection against new viruses. Experts say that more antibodies are better.

Britain’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: ‘The booster jab was already important before we knew about this variant – but now, it could not be more important.’ 

We will soon learn more about the variant.

Weeks remain before we have data about how transmissible this variant is, and the impact it has on hospitalizations or deaths.

South Africa has received help from the UK to collect this information. It is believed that South Africa will be able to learn more about transmissibility by two to three weeks.

It could take them up to six weeks before they learn more about deaths and hospitalizations.

Is this the name of the variant?

One day after its discovery in Hong Kong, the strain was named scientifically as B.1.1.529.

Alpha, Beta and Delta are the variants that have been given official names so far.

The variant Omicron was named by experts at the World Health Organization (November 26).