South Africa study suggests Omicron could displace Delta

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a teenager, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 9, 2021.
A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a teenager, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 9, 2021.

Studies by South African scientists suggest that Omicron could replace the Delta variant of the coronavirus because infection with the new variant boosts immunity against the old one.

The study involved only a small group of people and did not undergo peer-review, but found that people infected with Omicron, particularly those vaccinated, developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.

The analysis included 33 vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals infected with the Omicron variant in South Africa.

The authors found a 14-fold increase in neutralization of Omicron within 14 days of enrollment, while they also found a 4.4-fold increase in neutralization of the Delta variant.

"The increase in Delta variant neutralization in Omicron-infected individuals may result in a reduced ability of Delta to re-infect these individuals," the scientists conducting the study said. Said.

According to the scientists, the consequences of this displacement will depend on whether Omicron is less pathogenic compared to Delta. "So, then the incidence of COVID-19 severe illness will decrease and the infection may become less troubling for individuals and society."

Alex Sigal, a professor at the African Health Research Institute in South Africa, said on Twitter on Monday that if Omicron is less pathogenic as it appears from the South African experience, "it will help kick out the Delta."

According to a previous South African study, people infected with Omicron have a lower risk of hospitalization and serious illness compared to the Delta variant, but the authors say this is partly due to high population immunity. read more

The Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa and Hong Kong in November, has since spread worldwide, threatening to overwhelm hospitals in some countries.

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