Omicron is not normal. No immediate progenitors are known; its closest relatives are viruses last seen in early- to mid-2020. The orthodox explanation for this awkward fact, is that it has spent the last 18 months lurking “in a geography with poor genomic surveillance … or … in a chronically infected individual.” The simpler explanation is that it leaked from a laboratory.
As el gato malo and others have indicated, evidence is strong that Omicron circulates preferentially in the vaccinated. In all likelihood, it is the result of gain-of-function research, in which it was passaged repeatedly through convalescent or vaccinated plasma, in the hopes of helping the virus evade acquired immunity. The purpose of this research would be to anticipate future immune-escape variants that vaccines might target.
Omicron carries a series of highly unlikely and suspicious mutations in its spike protein. It is hard to imagine that these mutations can have arisen via natural processes, because all but one of them are nonsynonymous – that is, they code for different amino acid sequences. Starkly mutated variants favoured by natural selection should have a great many meaningless synonymous mutations as well.
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