The omicron variant infects about 70 times faster than delta and the original Covid-19 strain, although the severity of the disease is likely to be much lower, according to a study from the University of Hong Kong that adds weight to the early observations on the disease. ground from the south African doctors.
The super-fast spread of omicron in the human bronchus was found 24 hours after infection, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday. The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Michael Chan Chi-wai, found that the latest variant of care replicated less efficiently — more than 10 times lower — in human lung tissue than the original strain, suggesting “lower severity of illness.”
The study, which suggests that omicron jumps from one person to another more quickly, but doesn’t damage lung tissues as much as its predecessors did, is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal. Bloomberg had no access to the entire investigation.
As scientists scramble to determine just how transmissible, virulent and elusive omicron is — it has already traveled to at least 77 countries within three weeks of being first discovered in southern Africa — new research from Hong Kong may add ballast to descriptions by some doctors that most infections to date have usually been mild and have not required hospitalization.
Many researchers are now looking at whether the most mutated strain of the coronavirus will displace other strains and pave the way for the pandemic to slowly fade away as an endemic where the world is learning to live with the pathogen.
Early observations have shown that most patients do not require oxygen or intensive treatment for the disease, but many public health experts and agencies, including the World Health Organization, have urged caution. Many cases of breakthrough and reinfection have been found along with infection in young people without significant risk factors.
Countries around the world have responded with urgency and caution, erecting travel barriers amid widespread fears that omicron will spark another wave of infections and increase the burden on hospitals.
Even if omicron is conclusively proven to be less serious, the spread of wildfires could stretch and challenge health facilities around the world. The research from the University of Hong Kong also warns not to take the new variant lightly.
“By infecting many more people, a highly contagious virus can cause more serious illness and death, even if the virus itself is less pathogenic,” Chan, the study’s lead author, said in the statement. Given that the omicron variant can partially escape immunity from vaccines and previous infections, “the overall threat posed by the omicron variant is likely very significant.”