A surprising new detail about the Omicron variant has emerged that could at least partly explain its increased transmissibility.
According to new research, the latest coronavirus variant can survive longer on many household surfaces when compared to the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 strain.
"Wow – this other new study shows Omicron survives on most surfaces much longer than the old strain," epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding wrote on Twitter, sharing the study.
"Dr Marr is an airborne scientist so she even acknowledges this new concern of Omicron."
He also shared a graph from Dr Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech in America. Marr delved into the findings from the study, in the form of a draft research paper from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
The research found that the Omicron variant is much more stable than its ancestral strain on smooth and porous surfaces.
Marr said "a new preprint comparing survival of Omicron vs. ancestral strain on surfaces. TLDR Omicron is more stable [probably in aerosols too, may contribute to greater transmissibility, my graph of their data]".
She continued: "Greater environmental stability of Omicron could contribute to its greater transmissibility. Also, immune evasion, which has been shown, and possibly greater shedding (amount and/or duration), which has yet not been shown, to my knowledge.
"So … don't forget to wash your hands!"
Co-author of the study Professor Leo Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong, said the researchers wanted to find out why Omicron was spreading so easily and find out how to combat it.
"Our take-home message is that hand hygiene and disinfection procedure are still important."
He flagged that this finding may have implications on aerosol transmission, with further research needed.
Meanwhile, Ding said Omicron also appears to be stronger environmentally.
"Another recent study also shows #Omicron surviving longer than the old Wuhan strain and Delta. Omicron does seem environmentally sturdier, which can help it transmit better."
He also reinforced that covid generally is very airborne.
It comes as a highly new Omicron subvariant BA. 2 sweeps Australia, posing a new threat.