COVID-19: Omicron Has ‘Substantial’ Ability to Evade Immunity Against Previous Coronavirus Infection

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COVID-19: Omicron Has ‘Substantial’ Ability to Evade Immunity Against Previous Coronavirus Infection


Omicron has a “substantial” ability to evade immunity from a previous COVID infection, according to the first real-world study of the effect of the variant.

The discovery suggests that the new variant could cause a substantial wave of infections, even in populations with high levels of antibodies.

Researchers at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) warn their discovery has important public health implications.

They add: “Urgent questions remain as to whether Omicron is also able to evade vaccine-induced immunity and the potential implications of reduced immunity to infection on protection against serious illness and death. . “

Scientists have examined nearly 2.8 million confirmed cases of COVID19 in South Africa since March 2020 and found 35,670 to be re-infections.

The risk of reinfection was lower in beta and delta waves than the first wave of cases in March 2020 caused by the Wuhan strain of the virus.

But significantly, they found that the risk of reinfection in the current Omicron wave is 2.4 times higher than in the first wave.

The results were published as a preprint on the MedRxiv server and have not been peer reviewed.

The researchers state: “We find evidence of a substantial and continuing increase in the risk of reinfection which is temporally consistent with the timing of the emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa, suggesting that its selection advantage is at least partially. motivated by an increased ability to infect previously infected individuals.

“The immune evasion of a previous infection, whether or not Omicron can escape vaccine-derived immunity, has important implications for public health worldwide. “

Although only about a quarter of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, immunity to natural infections is high as the country has experienced several large waves of COVID.

Earlier, Professor Anne von Gottberg of NICD told a World Health Organization press conference that the Omicron variant did not appear to be more transmissible than the previously dominant strain.

Instead, the current increase in the number of cases is due to the susceptibility of the population to reinfection with Omicron, she said.

However, Professor von Gottberg added that there is early evidence that people who are re-infected have mild symptoms. She called it “good news.”

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