Less severe Omicron lung infections, faster reproducing delta in human airways: Study

People wait for a COVID-19 test at a mobile testing site along 5th Avenue amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., May 13 12 year 2021.

Mike Segar | Reuters

The omicron variant of Covid-19 replicates in the human respiratory tract 70 times faster than in plains, but infections in the lungs appear to be less severe than the original strain of the virus, according to a study published in the journal Nature. published this week by researchers at the University of Hong Kong. of Medicine.

Dr. Michael Chan Chi-Wai and a team of researchers found that this variant replicates much faster in the bronchi, which connect the windpipe to the lungs, 24 hours after infection. However, it replicates 10 times slower in actual human lung tissue, they said.

The Research is being peer-reviewed. The researchers published their findings before completing the peer-review due to the urgent nature of the pandemic.

Omicron’s rapid replication in the airways may explain why it transmits more rapidly than earlier variants of the virus, but its lower infectivity in the lungs may indicate that it causes less severe disease. more, according to the study results.

“It is important to note that disease severity in humans is determined not only by viral replication but also by the host’s immune response to infection,” Chan said in a statement. .

Chan notes that a highly contagious virus like omicron can cause more severe illness and death simply spread much faster, even though the lung infection doesn’t appear to be as bad.

“Therefore, combined with our recent studies showing that the omicron variant can partially escape immunity from vaccines and past infections, the overall threat from the variant Omicron can be very significant,” warns Chan.

The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, citing data from South Africa, said on Wednesday that omicrons reduce the protection of Pfizer and BioNTech two-dose vaccines against infection by 33 %, compared to 80% protection before this variation appeared.

However, the two-dose vaccine is still 70 percent effective at preventing hospitalization, Fauci said. Pfizer’s booster dose provides 75% protection against symptomatic disease, he said, citing data from the UK’s Health Security Agency.

Pfizer and BioNTech have also released preliminary data from their own laboratory research showing that the booster is effective against omicrons, but the initial two-dose series was significantly affected by omicrons.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said omicrons spread faster than any previous variant of Covid. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’S Covid-19 technical lead, warned against treating omicrons as a mild strain.

Van Kerkhove told the public during a Q&A session: “We know that people infected with omicrons can get a full range of illnesses, from asymptomatic infection to mild illness, to severe illness leading to death.

She warned that increased transmission would lead to more hospitalizations, burdening already constrained health care systems.

“If a system is overloaded, people die,” says Van Kerkhove. “We have to be really careful that there’s no story out there that it’s just a mild illness.” Less severe Omicron lung infections, faster reproducing delta in human airways: Study


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