The South African scientists say that the omicron COVID-19 strain can also strengthen immunity against the earlier delta variant, reducing the risk of severe disease.
While the novel pathogen omicron has been shown to be a never-before transmissible and can evade some antibodies, after two weeks of getting symptoms immunity to subsequent infections from the strain rose 14-fold. The research eas published by Alex Sigal and Khadija Khan of the Durban, South Africa-based Africa Health Research Institute (HRI).
“If we are lucky, omicron is less pathogenic, and this immunity will help push delta out,” said the study.
As Bloomberg News says, HRI’s study is based on 15 participants, of which two were excluded as they didn’t detectably neutralize omicron, and the data are being submitted to MedRxiv, a preprint medical publication. It has not been peer reviewed. Since the participants had probably suffered previous COVID-19 infections and were largely vaccinated, it’s not clear if the results show the impact on delta by omicron-elicited antibodies or the activation of antibodies, the authors said.
In other words, the likelihood of someone infected with omicron being reinfected by delta is limited, reducing the presence of the latter strain.
Omicron is the dominant variant in South Africa’s fourth wave of infections, delivering record case numbers, and is fast becoming the dominant strain globally. Delta ripped through the country in July and August, leading to record hospitalization figures. Omicron hasn’t yet had such an impact on health services.