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Omicron's Hazy History

The emergence of the Omicron variant took some researchers by surprise as it was so different from other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, Nature News writes, adding that this has sparked studies into how it arose.

It notes that there are three main ideas of how Omicron and its dozens of different mutations arose: that it is a descendent of other variants but that intermediates were missed by sequencing analyses; that it developed over time in an immunocompromised person; or that it developed in another animal host. The University of Basel's Richard Neher tells Nature News that what any given researcher thinks currently about Omicron's origins "often comes down to gut feeling rather than any sort of principled argument."

By knowing how Omicron arose, researchers can better understand how variants emerge and aid in efforts to prevent other new variants from cropping up, Angela Rasmussen from the University of Saskatchewan tells Nature News.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Jesse Bloom tells it that while a combination of the three theories is the more likely answer, it may never be entirely clear how Omicron developed. "Omicron really shows us the need for humility in thinking about our ability to understand the processes that are shaping the evolution of viruses like SARS-CoV-2," Bloom adds at Nature News.

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