Jul 20 2022

Let’s Discuss COVID-19 and its Variants... 

Let’s Discuss COVID-19 and its Variants...

COVID-19 is still prevalent in today’s world, without an end in sight. A question still being asked today, “What is Covid-19?”. We will be taking you through the science of COVID-19, which we hope will give you a better idea of what this virus is and why testing is so important to continue. 

While news and studies continue to give us further insight, we know that COVID-19 and its variants continue to mutate and become dominant. To ensure our consumers' safety and the accuracy of our INDICAID COVID-19 Rapid Antigen tests, PHASE Scientific continues to ensure that new variants are detectable with our tests by consistently examining our tests against the new variants.

Understanding the Structure of COVID-19 Virus

First, we must understand the structure of COVID-19. 

SARS-CoV-2 has four structural proteins, known as the S (Spike), E (Envelope), M (Membrane) and N (Nucleocapsid) Proteins. These proteins are responsible for creating the viral envelope, initiating new infection and evading the host’s immune response; while the S-Proteins can enable the virus to attach to and fuse with the host cell’s membrane and, hence causing infection.

Anatomy of a COVID-19 Virus (SARS-CoV-2), including membrane protein (M-Protein), RNA enclosed in nucleocapsid protein (N-Protein) and spike protein (S-Protein)

Understanding the Structure of COVID-19 Virus

COVID-19 viruses enhance its rate of transmission through self-replication. Virus mutations often occur during the replication process and enable it to spread and increase infection numbers, in turn further raising the mutation rate. According to recent findings, one of the most significant mutations of RNA viruses is S-Protein mutation.

S-Protein typically has a role of viral entry and is the main protein used as a target in common COVID-19 vaccines. Therefore, mutation of S-Protein is expected to strengthen the virus’s transmission rate and diminish antibodies’ neutralizing capacity and vaccine’s effectiveness. Variants that posed an increased risk to global public health are classified as VOCs by WHO, including:

  • Alpha (B.1.1.7)
  • Beta (B.1.351)
  • Gamma (P.1)
  • Delta (B.1.617.2)
  • Omicron (Multiple Variants) 
Alpha B1.1.7, Beta 1.1351, Gamma P.1, Delta B.1.617.2, Omicron (Multiple Variants)

Does Omicron diminish the effectiveness of vaccine? Is it easier to spread and cause severe disease?

Omicron has become a global concern because of its high number of mutations - a total of 50+ mutations, while more than 30 of them are S-Protein mutations. Studies have shown that the Omicron 5 variant is currently the dominant variant in the US, as of now.

Despite the foreseeable lower effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, data from different countries have shown that in general vaccines can still lower the risk of severe disease and death caused by most variants. However, further studies and observation on vaccine effectiveness and risk of severe disease have to be done due to Omicron’s large number of mutations.

While Omicron cases have proven less severe as the other variants, it has become one of the fastest spreading and dominant strands of COVID-19. One of the possible ways that everyone can do to protect ourselves and prevent the widespread of Omicron, is through regular testing.

Does Omicron diminish the effectiveness of vaccine? Is it easier to spread and cause severe disease?

Antigens are present in the SARS-CoV-2 virus and can bound with specific antibodies. When a virus enters a human body and begins to multiply, the body begins to react to the viral antigens, possibly resulting in symptoms.

COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test determines one’s infection status through detecting the N-Protein of COVID-19 virus, while in normal cases N-Protein mutation is relatively rare. According to an assessment of Omicron, conducted by an international organization, the protein mutations of Omicron do not affect antigen tests that target N-Proteins; therefore, we do not expect the mutations identified in the Omicron variant to have a significant impact on INDICAID® product performance.

We continue to examine our INDICAID COVID-19 test against new variants to ensure the effectiveness. INDICAID has been proven to detect Omicron and its variants. You can find more details here.)

In light of the infection spread, it is high time that everyone took preventive measures by using rapid tests regularly. INDICAID® COVID-19 Rapid Antigen At-Home Test is easy to use and provides easy to read results in 20 minutes, it brings you and your family members’ peace of mind for your self-test needs.