There are no findings to date to confirm that the new Omicron or B.1.1529 SARS-CoV-2 variant began in a person with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), contrary to a claim made by Dr. Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa, a medical adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
This comes after the Philippine government imposed a travel ban on inbound flights from Botswana, South Africa and other countries with recorded cases of the Omicron variant.
The World Health Organization declared the B.1.1.529 variant as a VOC on Nov. 27.
“There are a number of studies underway and (the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution) will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed,” the statement read. There was no mention of a case detected in an individual who is HIV-positive.
WHO said the rapid detection of the variant in PCR tests suggests it has a "growth advantage," which may have led scientists to hypothesize that it began in immunocompromised individuals such as people living with HIV.
Dr. Jose Enrico Lazaro, National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology director, said it’s too early to draw conclusions about the variant’s origin.
"WHO, the scientific community and national agencies are still looking at the data. The HIV patient origin is a hypothesis," Lazaro said in an email.
The Telegraph published an article on Nov. 26 quoting several scientists who hypothesize the variant emerged in an HIV patient.
On Nov. 25, before WHO’s classification of B.1.1.529 as a VOC, Botswana's COVID-19 task force announced that four cases of the variant were detected in the country, with none of the cases testing positive for HIV.
"The variant is still being studied and investigated and therefore, it would be premature to conclusively make these types of assertions at this time," the statement read.
As of Nov. 29, 5:30 p.m., Herbosa's post on Facebook has 127 reactions, 40 comments and 87 shares, while his tweet has 262 retweets and 475 favorites. (LBA)
Botswana Government [@BWGovernment]. (2021, November 25). statement on the new COVID-19 variant [Image attached] [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/BWGovernment/status/1464184386912501764
Herbosa, T. [@Teddybird]. (2021, November 28.) this new Variant called Omicron came from a single individual who has HIV, that was the findings, it [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/Teddybird/status/1464626794158428160
Herbosa, T. (2021, November 28.) this new Variant called Omicron came from a single individual who has HIV, that was the findings, it [Status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/ted.herbosa/posts/10222166183717154
Rigby, J. (2021, November 26.) Why scientists think the new variant may have emerged in an HIV patient. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/scientists-think-new-variant-may-have-emerged-hiv-patient/
World Health Organization (2021, November 27.) Classification of Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern [Press release]. https://www.who.int/news/item/26-11-2021-classification-of-omicron-(b.1.1.529)-sars-cov-2-variant-of-concern
Presidential Communications Operations Office (2021, November 26.) Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Resolution No. 150-D, dated 26 November 2021 [Press release]. https://pcoo.gov.ph/news_releases/inter-agency-task-force-for-the-management-of-emerging-infectious-diseases-resolution-no-150-d-dated-26-november-2021/