The dominant coronavirus mutant contains the specter of a pandemic past

The dominant coronavirus mutant contains the specter of a pandemic past

The mutant of the coronavirus now prevalent in the United States is a member of the Omicron family but scientists say it spreads faster than its Omicron ancestors, is adept at evading immunity and may cause more serious disease.

why? Because it combines the characteristics of both omicron and delta, the variant prevalent in the country in the middle of last year.

Dr. said. • Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist in Texas. That was because the original Omicron bloodline that swept the world did not have the mutation.

Omicron’s “alternative” substance in the US — known as BA.2.12.1 and responsible for 58% of US COVID-19 cases last week — isn’t the only case affected by the delta boom. The genetic change is also present in the relatives of the omicron that together dominate in South Africa, known as BA.4 and BA.5. These have the same mutation as delta, while BA.2.12.1 has an almost identical one.

This genetic change is bad news for people who picked up the original omicron and thought they were unlikely to catch COVID-19 again soon. Although most people don’t know for sure the variant that caused their illness, the original Omicron caused a massive wave of cases late last year and early this year.

Long laboratory data indicate that previous infection with the original omicron is not highly protective against reinfection with new mutations, although the true risk of reinfection regardless of the variant is unique to each person and situation.

However, in a twist, those who had previously had delta disease might have some extra armor to fend off the new mutants. A study released before it was reviewed by other scientists, by researchers at Ohio State University, found that COVID patients in intensive care with delta infection induced antibodies that were better at neutralizing the new mutations than patients who had the original omicron.

“The omicron infection antibody does not appear to protect as well against subvariants as delta,” said Dr. Shan Lu Liu, a study author who co-directed the Ohio State Emerging Viruses and Pathogens Program.

But Liu said the level of protection a delta infection provides depends in part on how long a person has been sick. That’s because immunity wanes over time.

Long said that people who have had delta disease shouldn’t think of themselves as at risk to new subvariants, especially if they are not immune. “I wouldn’t say that anyone is safe.”

One bright spot? Liu said the booster shots could provide powerful protection against new mutations. In general, vaccines and previous infections can protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID-19. At this point, scientists say, it’s too soon to know whether the new surge is gaining ground in the United States will lead to a significant increase in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

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Scientists are still trying to figure out how virulent these new mutants are. Long said he hasn’t seen anything that answers that question for him, but Liu said emerging data points to a more serious illness. Liu said the sub-variables have properties that suggest they propagate more efficiently from one cell to another.

The virus “just hides in the cell and spreads through cell-to-cell contact,” Liu said. “It’s even more scary because the virus doesn’t come out for the antibody to work.”

Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the new mutants certainly look no less virulent than previous versions of omicron, and whether or not they are more virulent “will become clear in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, scientists expect the latest powerful mutants to spread quickly, as they are more transmissible than their predecessors.

Although home testing makes it difficult to track all COVID cases in the United States, data from Johns Hopkins University shows cases average about 107,000 per day, up from about 87,000 two weeks ago. And new admissions for patients with COVID-19 have been going into hospitals since about mid-April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Hopefully we won’t see a similar increase in hospitalizations that we had in previous waves,” Long said. “But with COVID, any time a lot of people get infected, it’s just a numbers game. Some of these people are going to be tough. Some of these people are going to need hospital treatment. Some of them, unfortunately, are going to die.”

By Laura Ungar, science writer for the Associated Press

• • •

How to take the test

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find free and public COVID-19 testing sites in the Bay Area.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

United StateThe Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a test site.

• • •

How is the vaccination done?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given to ages 5 and older and the booster vaccines are given to eligible recipients at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, and public vaccination sites. Many of them allow you to book appointments online. Here’s how to find a location near you:

Find a site: Visit Vacines.gov to find vaccination locations in your zip code.

More help: Call the national COVID-19 vaccination assistance hotline.

phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability information and access line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

Omicron variable: Omicron has changed what we know about COVID. Here’s the latest information on how the infectious COVID-19 variant affects masks, vaccines, boosters, and quarantines.

Kids and Vaccines: Do you have questions about your child’s vaccination? Here are some answers.

Booster shots: Confused about which COVID medication you should get? This guide will help.

Booster Questions: Are there any side effects? Why do I need it? Here are the answers to your questions.

Elderly protection: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

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2022-05-27 15:08:38

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