US ‘must be source of omicron’, says Fauci

Fuaivi Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the scientific arm of the National Institutes of Health, believes omicron could already be in the US, if he could sort it out.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, using a computer model, compared a pathogen called Phadia influenzae – a family of bacteria that includes omicron – to PHN bacterial strains from China.

It found that “all the samples were closely identical to PHN for all three lineage types” – whose members include asfrock – within a week of exposure, while PHN bacterial samples drifted about four times more.

Phadia is an anthrax bacterium, with a tendency to cause vomiting, weight loss and diarrhoea. The PHN lineage is linked to a considerable number of pharyngeal infections. The pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is responsible for most hospital-acquired infections of the upper digestive tract. It is known to cause many MRSA skin infections.

“A mathematical model that compares phages from China with phages from the US indicates that most of the Chinese phages, including omicron, probably originated in this country,” said in the study’s pre-author, graduate student Jae Won Lee.

Omicron is a phage, which can be shed by infected microbes, called phages. They are the bacterium-like offspring of the phage Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

The study suggests that a certain number of cells, and, hence, the phages, have undergone the transformation into omicron. “We assumed that the majority of the phages were already there. We didn’t expect the US phages to arrive in any significant degree,” says Fauci.

However, it would be wrong to dismiss the US as being a likely source of omicron.

“Eager to avoid further entanglement in political controversy, Phadia genome sequencing and Omicron sequencing from Pakistan and the US were initially performed in South Korea by the Jiangnan National Centre for Quarantine in October 2016. While Phadia genome sequencing and omicron sequencing results were eventually published in 2018, Pakistani omicron sequencing results were reported in September 2018. I doubt that these reports are coincidental. I would be more surprised if US phages are not already in Pakistan,” Fauci told [email protected]

A race is on for omicron to spread quickly throughout the globe. Fauci said this was the last indication that he had that the US had shown no interest in omicron before other countries did.

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