Omicron multiplies 70 times faster than Delta, scientists find

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — A study by researchers from the LKS School of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong provides insight into how the new variant infects the human respiratory tract. The results of the study, which is undergoing peer-review, have been published by the university.

As cases of Omicron grow worldwide, new research shows that SARS-CoV-2 variant multiplies faster in the tissues lining the airways than in the lungs, in contrast to the Delta variant. Omicron multiplies 70 times faster in bronchial tissue, which can spread rapidly from person to person.

The study also shows that Omicron’s lung infection is significantly lower than the original SARS-CoV-2, suggesting less disease severity.

Dr. Michael Chan Chi-wai , associate professor at the School of Public Health, said: “It is important to note that the severity of disease in humans is determined not only by viral replication, but also by the host’s immune response to infection, which can lead to dysregulation of the innate immune system.”

Chan and his team isolated the SARS-CoV-2 variant of Omicron and compared it with the original SARS-CoV-2 variant from 2020, the Delta variant, and the more recent Omicron variant.

At 24 hours after infection, the Omicron strain replicated about 70 times faster than the Delta variant and the parent SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, the Omicron strain replicated less efficiently (10 times lower) in human lung tissues than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers found that Omicron multiplies 10 times slower than the original coronavirus. By infecting many more people, the virus can cause more serious illness and death, even though the virus itself may be less pathogenic.

“Together with our recent research showing that the Omicron variant can partially avoid immunity from vaccines and past infection, the overall threat from the Omicron variant is likely to be very significant,” says Chan.

The researchers hope that Omicron’s structural model of behavior will aid in the development and neutralization of antibodies.

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