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How Much Do Scientists Currently Know About The Omicron Variant?

Published On Apr 15, 2022

Scientists around the world have been racing to learn more about the new omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, first declared a “variant of concern” on November 26, 2021, by the WHO. Officials cautioned that it would take several weeks before they’d know whether the recently emerged coronavirus variant is more contagious and causes more or less serious COVID-19 than delta and other earlier variants, and whether current vaccines can ward it off.

Does Prior Immunity Protect Against Omicron?

The goal is to see how well antibodies from real people who have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated against it can hold off omicrons in petri dishes in the lab. Scientists expect that antibodies from people exposed to other variants won’t work as well against omicron because of its mutations, but they need to measure how much less well and whether it’s still enough to stop the virus.

To answer these questions, most researchers first make a version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can enter cells but not reproduce. A few specialised labs with extra levels of biosecurity use the actual virus. Scientists add antibodies from the blood of people vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19 to the virus. They then mix this with human lung cells to see whether the antibodies can stop the virus from infecting the cells. If antibodies made against prior variants can’t stop omicron from infecting lung cells in the lab, then those antibodies probably won’t protect people out in the world either.

The very first early results are starting to come back, and it looks like antibodies against earlier variants are less successful at blocking omicrons. Researchers took antibodies from six people who each had two doses of vaccine and from six other people who each had two doses of vaccine and had also recovered from an earlier COVID-19 infection. Antibodies from both groups of people were about 40 times worse at stopping omicron than original SARS-COV-2 strains, based on how much antibody was needed to prevent infection. But the people whose immune systems had seen the virus three times – that is, were doubly vaccinated and had also recovered from COVID-19 – had antibody levels that were high enough to still stop infection.

Conclusion

Laboratories will provide the first results on immune protection against omicron, although this will be followed up with public health data that will likely confirm the lab results. Public health data will bring the first results on contagiousness and disease severity, which will then be explained by laboratory results.

Also read- Everything We've Learned About The Omicron Variant Thus Far

Everything You Need To Know About The Omicron Variant And Kids.

Disclaimer

This article is issued in the general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.

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