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, because the original Omicron strain that swept the world didn’t 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.
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. This is more scary because the virus doesn’t come out for the antibody to work,” Liu said.
Dr Eric Topol, president of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the new mutations 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.”
This story was published from the news agency feed without modifications to the text.