Can an Omicron coronavirus infection ward off the Delta variant?

A South African study with 15 individuals infected with the Omicron variant, some vaccinated and some not, shows promising improvement. Subjects are likely to show increased immunity to the Delta variant.

A new laboratory study conducted by South African researchers suggests that “infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant creates a neutralizing immune response to the Delta variant.” That is, if a person is infected with the new Omicron coronavirus variant, they may be able to fight later infections from the Delta variant, New York Times reports.

The researchers enrolled both previously vaccinated and unvaccinated subjects infected with Omicron in South Africa shortly after they began to show symptoms of coronavirus. They then measured their ability to neutralize both Omicron and Delta variants “at enrollment versus a median of 14 days after enrollment.”

The results evoked hope: Neutralization of Omicron increased 14-fold over two weeks, indicating “an evolving antibody response” to the newly discovered and highly contagious Omicron variant.

The researchers also stress the discovery that there was “an improvement in Delta virus neutralization”, which increased 4.4-fold.

“The increase in Delta variant neutralization in individuals infected with Omicron may result in decreased ability in Delta to re-infect these individuals,” said Africa Health Research Institute professor Alex Sigal, who led the study. “If Omicron turns out to be less pathogenic, then this could show that the course of the pandemic has changed – Omicron will take over, at least for now, and we may have less disruption in our lives.”

“Omicron is likely to push Delta out,” Sigal said New York Times. “Maybe it’s actually a good thing to push Delta out, and we’re looking at something we can live with more easily.”

The study, called “Omicron infection boosts neutralizing immunity to Delta”, has not yet appeared in a scientific journal, but it was published on the Africa Health Institute’s website on Monday. It has been submitted as a pre-print to medRxiv. Once peer reviewed, it will be published in a medical journal.

Improving Delta Neutralization in Omicron Infection.  Omicron or Delta virus neutralization with blood plasma from n = 13 participants infected in the Omicron infection wave at enrollment (median 4 days after symptom onset) and at follow-up (median 14 days after enrollment).

Improving Delta Neutralization in Omicron Infection. Omicron or Delta virus neutralization with blood plasma from n = 13 participants infected in the Omicron infection wave at enrollment (median 4 days after symptom onset) and at follow-up (median 14 days after enrollment). (Africa Health Research Institute)

Independent scientists said that although the South African experiment had not been confirmed yet, the results seemed to make sense. Carl Pearson, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the results were parallel to what was currently happening in England.

“Omicron is arriving and growing fast, and the Delta trend is shifting to declining,” he said.

Another epidemiologist, Nathan Grubaugh, at the Yale School of Public Health, said he witnessed the same pattern in Connecticut in the United States.

“We are seeing Omicron rise exponentially as Delta cases fall,” he said. “This suggests to me that Omicron is outcompeting Delta for susceptible individuals, leaving them less susceptible to Delta in the wake, and driving Delta cases down.”

The coronavirus has evolved over the two years, it has changed people’s lives and created chaos in everyday life, the economy and social environment. When they were first infected, people used to produce antibodies and immune cells that could protect against re-infection. Thus, it was a rare occasion to get sick again of Covid-19 shortly after recovery.

With the advent of new coronavirus variants, such as Alpha and Beta, from the end of 2020, this was no longer the case. Alpha had mutations that helped it spread rapidly, just as Beta had adaptations that allowed it to escape antibodies, a previous Covid-19 infection, or a vaccine.

READ MORE: The US daily Covid-19 case rises to the highest level ever – latest updates

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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