Study: Omicron could be more transmissible due to sharing genetic material with common cold

The omicron variant may have evolved from the virus associated with the common cold, researchers out of Cambridge, Mass., said in a preliminary study released Friday, which suggests the variant could be much more transmissible than previously thought.

Nference, a biomedical company, released data revealing that omicron shares similar genetic material to HCoV-229E, a human coronavirus that causes common cold symptoms. Researchers posit that omicron evolved from an individual who was “co-infected” with Sars-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E.

The authors of the study found both viruses inside gastrointestinal and respiratory tissues of infected individuals. They wrote that “genomic interplay,” or the exchange of genetic material, could have led to omicron’s emergence. No other Sars-coV-2 variants have similar cross-genetic material with HCoV-229E.

Nference also compared omicron’s genetic material to other Sars-CoV-2 variants, including the highly transmissible and dominant delta variant. They found omicron hosts 26 mutations distinct to the variant.

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