Omicron as severe as Delta: Imperial College London

According to analysis from a recent study, early UK data shows that infections caused by the Omicron variant appears to be no less severe than the Delta variant.

Researchers at Britain’s Imperial College London compared 11,329 people with confirmed or likely Omicron infections with nearly 200,000 people infected with other variants, and according to their report, issued ahead of a peer review, “no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection.”

For vaccines available in the UK, effectiveness against symptomatic Omicron infection ranged from 0% to 20% after two doses, and from 55% to 80% following a booster dose.

The researchers also estimated that after taking individual risk factors into account, the odds of reinfection with Omicron are 5.4 times higher compared to the Delta.

A study of healthcare workers in the pre-Omicron era estimated that a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection afforded 85% protection against a second infection over 6 months, said the researchers; “the protection against reinfection by Omicron afforded by past infection may be as low as 19%.”

After COVID-19, sperm count is likely to be low for months. Researchers also found that the pandemic affected the quality of sperm for months after their recovery. The semen itself however was not infectious.

Among 35 men who provided sperm samples within a month of recovery from symptomatic infection, reductions in sperm motility were evident in 60% and sperm counts were reduced in 37%.

“Couples with a desire for pregnancy should be warned that sperm quality after COVID-19 infection can be suboptimal,” concluded researchers in their report.

“The estimated recovery time is 3 months, but further follow-up studies are under way to confirm this and to determine if permanent damage occurred in a minority of men.”

Neutralizing molecule could be cheaper than antibodies

“An experimental molecule that neutralizes the coronavirus in the same way antibodies do would be cheaper and easier to manufacture”, said researchers.

The molecule, belonging to a class of compounds known as aptamers, are easier to synthesize than protein-based antibodies that can only be produced in living cells since they are made from RNA, said Julian Valero of Aarhus University in Denmark.

Like antibodies, the aptamers attach themselves to protein targets, in COVID-19’s case to the spike protein on the virus surface, by folding into a three-dimensional conformation.

According to a study published in PNAS in test tube experiments, the aptamer binds tightly to the coronavirus spike, preventing it from breaking into human cells. It inhibits earlier variants of the virus, including Delta, said the researchers who are now planning tests to see if it also recognizes and binds to Omicron.

The use of aptamer in patients will take more time since only recently tests have begun on mice.

In terms of use in humans, “we’re much closer” to being able to use the aptamer to help diagnose SARS-CoV-2 infections, said Jorgen Kjemsa.

He went on to add, experiments comparing the use of the aptamer to antibodies in widely used rapid COVID-19 tests for infection are underway.



Categories: Creativity, Economy & Finance, Entrepreneurship, HR & Organization, Regulations & Legal, Strategy, Sustainability

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