Current variants unlikely to be protected by early Omicron infection

NEW DELHI Updated: Jun 18, 2022, 04:11 PM(IST)

(Representative Image) Photograph:( AFP )

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Omicron BA.2.12.1, which is currently producing the majority of infections in the United States, as well as Omicron BA.5 and BA.4, which now account for more than 21% of new cases in the United States, have mutations not found in Omicron BA.1 and BA.2.

In the field of medicine, viruses are known for striving to develop and generate new lineages or sub-lineages in order to circumvent acquired immunity. Several studies claim that the protection gained against previous Covid variants is ineffective against the new ones.

People who have been infected with the initial version of the coronavirus Omicron, which was first found in South Africa in November, may be prone to reinfection with subsequent strains of Omicron, according to new studies.

Vaccinated patients with Omicron BA.1 breakthrough infections developed antibodies that could neutralise that virus as well as the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but the circulating Omicron sublineages now have mutations that allow them to evade those antibodies, according to Chinese researchers who published their findings in Nature on Friday.

Omicron BA.2.12.1, which is currently producing the majority of infections in the United States, as well as Omicron BA.5 and BA.4, which now account for more than 21% of new cases in the United States, have mutations not found in Omicron BA.1 and BA.2.

In test-tube investigations, the researchers discovered that the newer sublineages "significantly elude the neutralising antibodies produced by SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunisation."

Experiments also demonstrated that the monoclonal antibody medications bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly and cilgavimab, a component of AstraZeneca's Evusheld, can still efficiently neutralise BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5.

The researchers cautioned that vaccination boosters based on the BA.1 virus, such as those being developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, "may not deliver broad-spectrum protection against new Omicron variants."

Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, a microbiology and infectious diseases researcher at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, suggested that vaccines that target multiple strains of the virus or intranasal vaccines that increase protection from infection and transmission by generating immunity in the lining of the nose, where the virus first enters, could provide better protection.

Garcia-Sastre, who was not involved in the study, believes that by the time one variant-specific vaccination is available, a new variant may have supplanted it.
 

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