Sunday, May 22, 2022

Omicron Spreads 70 Times Faster Than Previous Covid-19 Strains, Shows Study

A recent study by the University of Hong Kong suggests that the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads 70 times faster than the other strains of Covid-19, however, with a lower rate of infection in the lungs.

Omicron Spreads 70 Times Faster Than Previous Covid-19 Strains, Shows Study
Representative image of Covide-19. AP

The Omicron variant spreads 70 times faster than the Delta variant and the original Covid strain, however, with a lower severity rate, according to a study by the University of Hong Kong. The study added that the infection affects the lungs significantly low, likely an indicator of lower disease severity.

The team, led by Michael Chan Chi-wai, found that the new variant replicates 10 times lower in the lung tissue than the original strain. The increased pace of spreading starts 24 hours from the human bronchus catching the infection.

“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, which may lead to dysregulation of the innate immune system, i.e. cytokine storm,” said Dr Chan.

The study which is currently under peer review used discarded lung tissue that has been removed following a lung treatment. Such tissues are often used for investigating viruses of the respiratory tracts.

What is the Omicron variant?

The B.1.1.529 ‘Omicron’ has been declared as the latest ‘variant of concern’ (VOC) by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Highly transmissible,  this strain of Coronavirus has 30 plus different mutations in the Covid-19 spike protein. The presence of these multiple mutations facilitates the easier transmission of the variant inside the human body.

The first case of Omicron was confirmed by WHO on November 9, early this year, in South Africa. Eventually, it spread to the US, Belgium, Hong Kong, India and others.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed that the strain has already been reported in 77 countries and had "probably" spread undetected "at a rate not seen with any previous variant", according to reports.

The symptoms of Omicron are mostly like Delta variant and the original strain of covid-19 and include, shortness of breath, headache, loss of mobility, chest pain and so on.

However, chest pain, loss of mobility and shortness of breath have been categorised as the most severe symptoms.

What are experts telling about Omicron?

Although early studies and research have shown that most patients affected with Omicron would not require oxygen or intense treatment like in previous times but WHO and other public health bodies continue to raise concern.

The highly-transmissible nature of the virus has led to worries around more cases of infection and repeated burden on the health care sector and hospitals.

“It is also noted that, by infecting many more people, a very infectious virus may cause more severe disease and death even though the virus itself may be less pathogenic. Therefore, taken together with our recent studies showing that the Omicron variant can partially escape immunity from vaccines and past infection, the overall threat from Omicron variant is likely to be very significant.,” said Dr Chan.

The apex health body, WHO in an official brief had said that while Omicron symptoms are milder, it may cause a reduction in the efficacy of existing vaccines.

While there is a chorus around booster shots across the world, the United Kingdom reported its first Omicron death on Monday. The UK government has warned that deaths related to Omicron can increase rapidly in 2022 if the required protection is not taken.