The spread of the omicron variant: Identification of knowledge gaps, virus diffusion modelling, and future research needs

Uttpal Anand, Tarun Pal, Alessandra Zanoletti, Suresh Sundaramurthy, Sunita Varjani, Anushka Upamali Rajapaksha, Damià Barceló, Elza Bontempi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The World Health Organization (WHO) recognised variant B.1.1.529 of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as a variant of concern, termed “Omicron”, on November 26, 2021. Its diffusion was attributed to its several mutations, which allow promoting its ability to diffuse worldwide and its capability in immune evasion. As a consequence, some additional serious threats to public health posed the risk to undermine the global efforts made in the last two years to control the pandemic. In the past, several works were devoted to discussing a possible contribution of air pollution to the SARS-CoV-2 spread. However, to the best of the authors' knowledge, there are still no works dealing with the Omicron variant diffusion mechanisms. This work represents a snapshot of what we know right now, in the frame of an analysis of the Omicron variant spread. The paper proposes the use of a single indicator, commercial trade data, to model the virus spread. It is proposed as a surrogate of the interactions occurring between humans (the virus transmission mechanism due to human-to-human contacts) and could be considered for other diseases. It allows also to explain the unexpected increase in infection cases in China, detected at beginning of 2023. The air quality data are also analyzed to evaluate for the first time the role of air particulate matter (PM) as a carrier of the Omicron variant diffusion. Due to emerging concerns associated with other viruses (such as smallpox-like virus diffusion in Europe and America), the proposed approach seems to be promising to model the virus spreading.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115612
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 15 May 2023


  • Global health perspective
  • Omicron (B.1.1.529)
  • Particulate matter (PM)
  • Public health concern
  • SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern
  • Virus spread

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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