The study showed that the “invisible” variant of Omicron could cause more severe disease and avoid treatment with monoclonal antibodies.
- The BA.2 Omicron strain—or the “invisible” variant as it’s been dubbed—may cause more serious infection than the BA.1 version of the strain.
- A Japanese research team found that in hamsters, this strain can cause significantly more damage to the lungs of an infected person.
- Health experts haven’t given too many warnings about the stealth variant as it’s believed to be as soft as Omicron.
- The CDC believes the theft variant accounts for about 5% of active Covid cases in the US.
The “hidden” variant of Omicron, or BA.2 as it’s officially called, may cause a more serious infection than the original version of the strain and may be able to avoid some treatments.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan found that the new line, which was already known to be more contagious than BA.1, the original version of Omicron, caused more severe cases of the virus in infected hamsters.
The lineage, which accounts for about five percent of U.S. Covid cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has similar properties to the Delta variant in how it affects human lungs, researchers believe. makes it more dangerous than its predecessor.
However, the study was conducted on animals, and this is a preliminary study, meaning the results have not yet been peer-reviewed after being published in a major medical journal.
Health experts have so far shown little concern about the stealth variant. It still makes up a small proportion of cases in the US, and in countries such as Denmark and the UK, where it has become the dominant lineage, it has not caused spikes in hospitalizations or deaths.
A Japanese research team fears that an “invisible” variant of Omicron could cause a more severe infection than the original BA.1 strain. They also believe that he can avoid treatment with monoclonal antibodies. Pictured: A nurse in Seattle, Washington, treats a patient with Covid on January 14.
Japanese researchers conducted an experiment by infecting hamsters with BA.1 and BA.2. They found that BA.2 can generate a lot of syncytia that can seriously damage a person’s lungs (file photo).
The researchers, who shared their findings this week, are particularly concerned about the line’s ability to create syncytia, clusters of cells that damage the lungs.
BA.1 produced fewer syncytia than the Delta variant and other strains, which is what made it so dangerous.
The hamsters that the researchers used to study the effect of two different strains on the lungs found that those infected with BA.2 were significantly worse off.
Like BA.1, the stealth strain also had the ability to overcome antibodies from the vaccine and previous infection.
It may also go through monoclonal antibody treatment, which provides the immune system with additional antibodies to fight the virus.
However, people previously infected with BA.1 should be protected from BA.2 as this lineage cannot break through antibodies from the same family of viruses.
Overall, health officials seem unconcerned about the “invisible” option, even saying that the BA.2 moniker makes it sound scarier than it really is.
Dr. Pavitra Roychaudhury is a bioinformatics expert at the University of Washington in Seattle specializing in spike target gene sequencing (SGTF).
BA.2 lacks the indicator that the SGTF uses to determine, Roychaudhuri explained to last month, so it can spread in a “more subtle” way than other strains.
‘Unfortunately, [the lack of detection] leads some people to call it a stealth variant, which sounds a bit intimidating, but it’s really because it doesn’t have that specific removal that we used as a signature or marker for Omicron. ,’ she explained.
Dr. Chris Thompson, an expert microbiologist at Loyola University in Maryland, told that natural immunity obtained from an Omicron infection may be weaker than from other strains because the variant is less dangerous.
‘[Making predictions with ] Omicron is strong, it causes less severe disease, and at least some early evidence suggests that then this protection will not be as reliable and will not last as long, ”he said.
‘So someone [who] just got Covid… they will be protected for at least a few months. But we don’t know how much longer.
He says he’s not sure if the stealth variant can break through BA.1 antibodies, but it’s not worth the risk of finding out without being vaccinated and revaccinated.