It appears that infection with the COVID-19 Omicron variant has the potential to significantly increase immunity against the Delta strain of the virus. These findings stem from a study conducted in South Africa. However, the study was a comparably small one, meaning its findings might not be completely accurate after additional studies involving more participants are conducted.
The study’s findings reveal that the Omicron infection might only be effective at boosting immunity against a single Delta strain. The study results are also qualified even more with the fact that the Delta strain in question is one of the earliest. In other words, there is the potential for those infected by Omicron to have immunity to one or several Delta strains.
A Closer Look at the Study
Africa Health Research Institute scientists in Durban determined individuals infected with Omicron naturally developed improved immunity to the Delta variant of the virus. In particular, those who had been vaccinated had the most immunity against the Delta strain. It must be noted this research has not been peer-reviewed.
The study involved 15 individuals, some of whom were vaccinated and others who were unvaccinated. Each of these individuals had the Omicron variant of the virus. The study, led by Khadija Khan and Alex Sigal, determined that Omicron neutralization increased by a multiple of 14x across the two weeks after enrollment.
A 4.4-fold jump in the neutralization of a specific Delta strain occurred as a result of Omicron infection. Two individuals were excluded from the study as they did not neutralize the Omicron variant.
It is also worth noting a prior South African study found there is a decreased risk of hospitalization and significant illness in individuals infected with the Omicron variant as opposed to those infected with the Delta variant. However, the authors of the study suggested this reduced risk is the result of elevated population immunity.
Why the Study is Important to You
The jump in the Delta variant’s neutralization in those who were infected with the Omicron variant has the potential to significantly reduce the chances of reinfection with the Delta variant. The study revealed vaccinated individuals infected with the new Omicron variant naturally created strong immunity to Delta. In other words, you and your loved ones might be able to live without fear of a Delta infection if you are infected with the Omicron variant of the virus.
The scientists who conducted the study noted that the findings are consistent with the likelihood of Omicron eventually completely displacing the Delta variant. This displacement will occur as Omicron can spur immunity that serves to neutralize and ultimately reduce the chances of reinfection with Delta.
Reuters states the displacement depends on whether the Omicron variant is more or less pathogenic when juxtaposed with Delta.
If the Omicron variant is less pathogenic, the chances of a patient suffering from severe coronavirus effects will be significantly reduced. A subsequent infection would cause less disruption to coronavirus patients as well as society as a whole. It is also worth noting Sigal found that a double-dose of the Pfizer shot along with a prior infection have the potential to provide significantly more protection against the Omicron variant. The study’s findings are now being presented to the preprint medical publication known as MedRxiv.
Is Delta on the Way Out?
The Omicron strain has quickly spread throughout the world after initially being discovered in South Africa. It is believed that the Omicron variant formed in a patient battling HIV. The patient’s weakened immune system allowed for the new variant to form. Omicron then spread throughout South Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States.
The hope is that the study’s findings will be peer-reviewed, confirmed, and publicized. If these findings turn out to be accurate, Omicron will replace Delta as the dominant strain, potentially permanently. If Omicron replaces Delta, it is possible that the pandemic will come to a conclusion by some point in 2022.
One of the study’s lead scientists, Sigal, took to Twitter yesterday to make it clear that if the Omicron variant proves to be less pathogenic, which appears to be the case, it will help to “push Delta out.”
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The potential dominance of Omicron is fantastic news as early studies indicate it is less severe than Delta. The reduction in severity will reduce hospitalization rates as well as fatalities. However, it is unknown as to whether Omicron will cause as many long COVID cases as occurred with Delta and the original strain of the virus. The only downside to Omicron supplanting Delta as the dominant strain is the fact that Omicron is that much more contagious, meaning it spreads faster, ultimately posing a threat to workforces and the economy.