Two new sublines of the Omicron coronavirus variant can evade antibodies from previous infection well enough to trigger a new wave, but are much less able to thrive in the blood of people vaccinated against COVID-19, South has said. African scientists discovered.
The scientists from multiple institutions examined Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 sublines – which the World Health Organization added to its monitoring list last month. They took blood samples from 39 participants previously infected with Omicron when it first surfaced late last year.
Fifteen were vaccinated – eight with an injection of Pfizer; seven with J&Js — while the other 24 weren’t.
“The vaccinated group showed about a five-fold higher neutralization capacity … and should be better protected,” said the study, a preprint of which was released over the weekend.
In the unvaccinated samples, there was an almost eight-fold decrease in antibody production upon exposure to BA.4 and BA.5, compared to the original BA.1 Omicron line. Blood from the vaccinated people showed a threefold decrease.
South Africa may be entering a fifth COVID wave earlier than expected, officials and scientists said Friday, blaming a continued rise in infections that appear to be caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants .
Only about 30% of South Africa’s 60 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated.
“Based on neutralization escape, BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new wave of infection,” the study said.
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