Further evidence shows Omicron causes milder symptoms

pharmafile | January 4, 2022 | News story | |   

A WHO official has said more evidence is emerging to support that the Omicron variant causes milder symptoms than previous variants.

Early laboratory studies reveal that Omicron replicates less effectively once inside the lung tissue, but real-world data concerning whether this causes milder illness and carries a lower risk of hospitalisation, is still being conducted.

A team of researchers at Hong Kong University’s faculty of medicine found that Omicron replicates 70 times faster than Delta in human airways. When compared with both Delta and the original coronavirus, the Omicron variant was much quicker at getting into the bronchus or tubes that run through the upper airways and lungs but much slower at infiltrating the lung tissue itself.

The lead author Dr Michael Chan has still urged caution over these results, and said: “It is important to note that the severity of disease in humans is not determined only by virus replication, but also by the host immune response to the infection.”

WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists, “We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike the other ones, that could cause severe pneumonia.” Mahamud stated that this could be “good news”.

Despite this, Mahamud added that Omicron’s high rate of transmissibility means it will become dominant in many places within weeks, posing a significant risk in countries where most of the population remains unvaccinated.

Lina Adams

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