More variants are likely to emerge from COVID-19 after Omicron, according to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

Collins gave the grim news on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying, “It’s certainly possible that this is not the last emerging variant that will attract a lot of attention and a lot of concern.”

The alarm over the Omicron variant has heightened as the new strain of COVID-19 has started to spread rapidly across the globe, and has now been detected in the U.S. in at least 17 states after first being identified in South Africa.

According to Collins, the Omicron mutations “probably arose in an immunocompromised individual.”

He continued, “This is a hypothesis but it seems plausible, who wasn't able to completely fight off the virus. And so, it remained in the system, maybe for months, in that person until they finally got over it. And that is, of course, a perfect situation for the virus to be able to pick up additional mutations along the way.”

Collins told “Meet the Press” the same situation could happen with other variants of COVID.

“To the extent that that's going to keep happening if we don't have adequate immune protection across the globe, yeah, we're probably going to see something and we'll have to use some of the other letters in the Greek alphabet,” he said.

But, according to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, preliminary data on the Omicron variant is “a bit encouraging.”

Fauci told CNN that “although it’s too early to make any definitive statement about it, thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it.

“But we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determination that it is less severe, or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to Delta, but thus far the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity,” he said.

The World Health Organization deemed Omicron, which has now spread to more than 40 countries, a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26.

A Covid-19 patient is treated in a hospital set up at a sports gym, in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil in March 2021
A Covid-19 patient is treated in a hospital set up at a sports gym, in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil in March 2021 AFP / Miguel SCHINCARIOL
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