Catching Omicron may fend off Delta and halt current pandemic

New research has shown that catching the Omicron variant of Covid-19 may help people fend off Delta as people’s antibodies showed a huge spike in lab tests against both strains. On seeing the results, scientists not involved in the study said it was likely that Delta is being outcompeted and it could signal the end of the pandemic as we know it.

The Africa Health Research Institute said the antibody spike could be from the Omicron infection recalling previous immunity from Covid-19 or that antibodies created to fight the newest strain can also fight Delta. However, Delta antibodies did not react well against Omicron.

The academics took blood samples from people who caught the super-transmissible variant and measured their antibody levels. They then looked at how well those antibodies reacted to Omicron and Delta, reports the Daily Mail. Lab tests conducted two weeks after the patients joined the study showed antibody levels spiked 14-fold in response to Omicron.

But what took the researchers by surprise was that there was also a 4.4-fold increase against the Delta strain as well. The immunity boost does not go in the other direction, with antibodies made in response to Delta not commanding the same coverage against Omicron. Professor Alex Sigal, a virologist at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa who led the research spoke to the Daily Mail and said it suggested that Omicron could end the pandemic in its current phase. It would do this by ushering in an endemic phase instead.

He said: “The increase in neutralising immunity against Omicron was expected, that is the virus these individuals were infected with. However, we also saw that the same people – especially those who were vaccinated – developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.”

He added: “If, as it currently looks like from the South African experience, Omicron is less pathogenic, then this will help push Delta out”. This is because it should “decrease the likelihood someone infected with Omicron will get re-infected with Delta”, helping fend off Delta. He then continued: “If that is true, then the disruption Covid has caused in our lives may become less.”

The record number of infections across the globe have pointed to the higher transmission rates of Omicron and with it now becoming the dominant strain in many countries, the evidence on the ground is pointing to it overtaking Delta. Professor Nathan Grubaugh, from Yale University, said: “We are seeing Omicron exponentially rise while Delta cases are falling. This suggests to me that Omicron is outcompeting Delta for susceptible individuals, leaving them less susceptible to Delta in the aftermath and driving down Delta cases.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon


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